Former Officer Calls Out Racism at the World Bank

Phyllis Muhammad reveals that the international body has systematically shut out people of African descent. 

Posted: 12/06/2012 11:05 AM EST
Racism at the World Bank

The World Bank is no stranger to criticism, especially when it comes to allegations of prejudice. However, a recent article by a former World Bank officer reveals a rarely heard inside perspective on just how deep the bank’s insensitivity runs.  

Phyllis Muhammad, a former staff relations officer at the World Bank, drills down into what she calls a deeply entrenched bias against Black people in the body’s institutional policies, affecting everything from international development to internal human rights policies.

Muhammad says that the bank harbors both structural and cultural bias against Blacks that has muted African voices in the bank’s major decision making and dehumanized employees at the bank for decades.

She says that on the policy front, the bank employs friendly language like “development partners” to describe the systematically unequal relationship between donors and recipients of foreign aid. Internally, she highlights what many have called the Bank’s “ghetto-ization” policy that only gives Black employees opportunities in the Africa region and ensures that not many Blacks are recruited to the bank.

“Blacks make poor accountants and the department could not hire too many Blacks as the department would look like a ghetto,” Muhammad quotes a former director of the Bank’s loan department. Muhammad said the same director also suggested in a public meeting that Blacks should be kept in the “Africa ghetto.” 

Muhammad isn’t the only former bank employee raising her voice about injustices on the inside. A group of World Bank employees have created an organization called Justice for Blacks, which seeks to bring awareness to the Bank’s racist internal policies and sabotage. More specifically, the group is championing the case of a former employee who was denied a promotion because “Europeans are not used to seeing a Black man in a position of power" at that level and was fired after he filed discrimination charges.

A change.org petition by the group asks Human Rights Watch to investigate the bank's human rights violations, citing a breach of Articles 1 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


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(Photo: Courtesy of ARM Radio)

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