Archive for January 27th, 2009

Constitutional discrimination

| 27/01/2009 | 5 Comments

The recent news report on CNS revealing that a local attorney has filed a discrimination claim against her former employer raised a considerable amount of debate in the CNS comments forum.


This was not a great surprise as the issue of the Caymanian ‘glass ceiling’ has become something of a hot topic recently.

As unemployment continues to rise and the global credit crunch continues to squeeze, the issue of discrimination against Caymanians in favour of ex-pats is not going to go away. However, what is noteworthy is that this discrimination claim, if it is proven, may have as much to do with the claimant being a woman, or being black as it does her being a native Caymanian and could serve to illustrate a much wider discrimination issue than a possibly unfair employer.

Discrimination is common herein Cayman in many forms as it is throughout the Western world. Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton, a woman, and Barack Obama, a black man, dominated the presidential race in the United States this year, with the unprecedented result of Obama being sworn in as president of the world’s biggest economy, discrimination is still a strong feature of the world in which we live.

Wherever middle class, white men are in charge they tend, intentionally or not, to discriminate against women, gays, ethnic groups, black people and the disabled, among others.  For several millennia the white middle class man has dominated much of the world’s political landscape and the global economy.

 In many cases, this group doesn’t even realise that it discriminates, as the discrimination is institutionalised in the places in which it operates and is an ingrained part of its own collective psyche. The schools they attended, the communities they grew up in, the corporations and institutions in which they trained and learned their trade have all re-enforced the attitude that their group is inherently superior. Anyone else invited into their world is done so to pay lip-service to laws, to avoid potential litigation, or to pander to what they will call a politically correct climate if it appears expedient to do so.

This situation is common in the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada, most of Europe and most definitely places that remain colonised by the British. Furthermore, as it becomes more difficult to discriminate in the UK and the US, because of a greater attempt by successive governments and grass roots organisations to eliminate the institutionalised racism and discrimination that has been acknowledged to exist, those who still can’t accept they are equal have gravitated towards the colonies. Places such as Cayman where there are fewer rules and laws in place to stop them behaving as they always have done are increasingly appealing as the world in which the white middle class man once felt very secure becomes a little shakier.

It is, therefore, perfectly understandable why the Human Rights Committee was so appalled by the recent manoeuvring at the last round of constitutional talks. In the church’s desperate and irrational desire to reserve what they see as their theological right to discriminate against homosexuals the way has now been paved to consitutionalise discrimination of all kinds.

Here in Cayman, as in many other places, discrimination is already institutionalised in many ways, not just against Caymanians but against other groups – seeing the white middle class man do it for so long has clearly rubbed off on a whole host of groups. Whether it is Caymanians discriminating against Filipinos, Jamaicans discriminating against gays, the white expats against all blacks, Christians against other religions,  men against women, the able bodied against the disabled, adults against children,  discrimination is common and in many cases unchecked.

While the move driven by the PPM to apply the non-discrimination section of the bill of rights only within the context of the constitution was totally understandable given the circumstances, it will make it increasingly difficult for future generations to fight the myriad discriminatory practices common in our community.

The move may well be seen by some as admirable as it has created a way for Cayman to get a bill of rights and therefore a modern constitution. It has, after more than a decade of opposition from the church, seen the bill of rights accepted by that community and in such away that is also acceptable to the UK.

However, there is no doubt that in winning the battle of the bill rights the war on injustice has been lost. Cayman has been given carte blanche to continue to discriminate in the wider community. The only course of action remaining for anyone who feels discriminated against is the complex web of existing legislation requiring legal know-how, guts and determination, in order to navigate it successfully.

History has shown us that few have bee prepared to take that route. And as the proposals for the new constitution do little to encourage discriminated to raise their voices and be heard it looks like business as usual for the all those who think, for whatever reason, they are more equal than others.

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