Institutional racism permeates every facet of life in America. It is perpetuated by the uppermost echelons of America’s elite in high office as by law enforcement officers in the backstreets of America.
This is nowhere clearer than in the World Bank where Blacks are treated as members of an inferior caste. Historically, the World Bank has been run by Harvard-trained luminaries– politically connected elites who are accountable for running a neo-apartheid system.
News articles linking the World Bank to apartheid are common. In 1997, a director of the Bank’s Loan Department was asked in a departmental meeting why he was not hiring Black professionals. His answer was forthright: “Blacks make poor accountants and the department could not hire too many blacks as the department would look like a ghetto.”
According to the Bank’s former Senior Advisor for Racial Equality, over 450 such cases of discrimination were filed with his office “in a span of five years.” A 2003 World Bank survey found a much higher number of complainants. Despite hundreds of complains not a single black complainant of racial discrimination has prevailed.
The manifest racism is sustained by the Bank’s immunity from U.S. laws and courts. The institution is answerable only to an internal Tribunal, which serves it both as an instrument of injustice and as a fig leaf of judicial oversight – a fox guarding the chicken coop.
Jim Young Kim, president of the World Bank, understands full well that if a single victim of discrimination is redressed, either through administrative action or judicial order, the floodgates of complaints will be wide open. Keeping the floodgates shut tight requires denying Blacks legal and administrative redress.
Obviously, white-collar racial discrimination, no matter how systemic and repugnant, doesn’t trigger mainstream outrage in the way that video footage of a fatal chokehold or the shooting in the back of a fleeing person does. In addition, America cannot address the endemic racism woven into its social fabric focusing exclusively on blue-collar racism while turning a blind eye to white-collar racism.
Black lives and rights should matter not only in backstreets and public parks, but also in high places. President Obama cannot remain silent as his appointee and occasional golf partner runs a neo-apartheid system down the street from the White House. It’s past time for the U.S. to withhold funding to the World Bank until President Kim is held accountable, the Bank established an external commission to investigate the Tribunal for systemic human rights violations, and victims of racial discrimination are granted access to justice.
Frank Watkins is public policy director of the Rainbow/ PUSH Coalition.