Implicit Bias Racism
Today, equality has become such a persuasive and pervasive norm that no government would openly admit that it discriminates on the basis of race. Overt racial discrimination, it appears, is passe. Invidious distinctions based on sex, religion, national origin, and lately even age, are now outlawed in many countries. The PPP GECOM Commissioners have alleged there is racial discrimination in the organisation’s hiring practices.In the implementation of this norm of equality, two concepts have been utilised. Firstly, there has been the standard of equal treatment. Here, individuals equally situated are to be treated equally: the focus is on the individual, and not the group. The decision-maker should be race-blind. In a frequently used analogy, individuals are akin to contestants in a footrace, with the winner being the one who runs the fastest. A meritocracy would be created.The footrace analogy, however, indicates a problem with the “equal treatment” standard, and suggests the second concept — equal opportunity. To extend the analogy, it was pointed out that while everyone might now theoretically be starting from the same point, the legs of some might have been damaged simply because they belong to a particular group. The results would thus be a foregone conclusion. It was considered appropriate, therefore, to sometimes consider the race of an individual to ensure that decisions did not continue to disadvantage a particular race.There have also been two theories of discrimination to assist in the enforcement of equality – “disparate treatment” and “disparate impact”. The former “is the most easily understood type of discrimination. The employer simply treats some people less favourably than others because of their race, colour, sex, religion, or national origin. Proof of discriminatory motive is critical, although it can, in some situations, be inferred from the mere fact of “differences in treatment.”“Adverse impact employment practices are facially neutral in their treatment of different groups, but in fact fall more harshly on one group than another, and cannot be justified by business necessity. Proof of discriminatory motive is not required under a “disparate impact theory.” Nowadays, the phrase “implicit bias” is a substitute expression.In Guyana, the recruitment pattern of the Police Force can illustrate many of the above concepts. After the abolition of slavery, the British recruited first Bajans, and then local Africans for the lower ranks, almost to the exclusion of other races; just as prior they had preferred Amerindians. This, of course, was to further their “divide and rule” strategy. The criteria for selection — such as height and chest measurements, and unmarried status — combined with the food served while facially neutral, produced a disparate impact on Indians.On the eve of Independence in 1965, Indians were 20.7% compared with 71.9% Africans in the Force. And this was after the PPP Government of 1957 -1964 had deliberately increased the number of Indians recruited. They had accepted 239 Indians versus 432 Africans from 5,877 versus 9,081 applications respectively; that is, 4.1 per cent of Indian applicants versus 4.7 per cent of African applicants. The International Commission of Jurists, invited by the PNC to investigate the imbalances in the state sector, concluded that the Police Force should reflect, to a greater degree, the composition of the population.They recommended that 75 per cent of all future recruits be Indian, until the goal was reached. The ICJ’s recommendation reflects the ethos of “equal opportunity”, which seeks to right historical discriminatory wrongs. While the PNC accepted the recommendations of the ICJ, it did not implement them, and actually decreased the number and percentage of Indians accepted. The PNC ceased to make statistics available after 1966, but data collected by Prof. K. Danns showed that between 1970 and 1977, while the size of the Force was being doubled, 92.2 per cent of recruits were Africans, with only 7.84 per cent being Indians.The ICJ’s recommendation also introduced into Guyana, if not in so many words, the concept of “affirmative action”. This is a very controversial concept, both to those whom it benefited and those against whom it discriminated [reverse discrimination].