Sunday 11th June, 2006

 
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It takes a lot more to get people to understand any point or principle regarding the need for racial equality, because we are so politically and personally sensitive.

The Guardian editorial on Friday is a case in point. Titled Promotion can’t be based on ethnicity, it proceeded to (quite rightly) argue that it would be “an absurd and dangerous argument, if taken to its logical conclusion, that the highest ranks of the police service should be decorated with officers based on their ethnic orientation and not on the basis of merit.”

There are many Indian officers who were bypassed for promotion to the senior ranks who gained the maximum possible marks for performance and ability.

All things being equal (ie, if they have the ability and can do the job), why should we not take into account the need to redress the racial imbalance as a legitimate consideration?

At no time have I ever advocated promotion based on race. The point regarding the need for racial balance in the police service is premised on the simple principle that a police service should reflect the ethnic composition of the society that it intends to protect and serve without sacrificing the principle of merit.

Are there no Indian officers deserving of promotion in the upper echelons of the police service? And if so, why not?

The editorial boldly asserts “the reality is that Afro-Trinidadians in far greater numbers chose the police service as a career.”

The argument that Indians don’t apply in equal numbers for jobs in the public service is incorrect. This is a thing of the colonial past.

In the past 50 years that has not been the case. Where are the statistics and evidence to back up this claim, I ask?

The fear and reluctance of compiling racial statistics shall forever force us to argue on emotional perceptions without any reference to facts.

Even so, doesn’t it beg the question: Why are they not applying? Is it because they think they are not welcomed or wanted? Is it because they feel there is inequality in promotion and career advancement?

“Dey doh apply” is a trite excuse that is no longer accepted in modern countries, because it is in itself symptomatic of a racially unequal system.

The modern approach is the one used at present by the British Scotland Yard. Go to the people. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

Following the marches in East London, the police immediately set up recruitment offices in areas that were predominantly Indian, African of Asian.

Career-guidance seminars were held in the schools and pamphlets advertising vacancies were distributed to every single household.

The community was reassured that they were wanted and would be welcomed. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of non-white police officers in London. (Ever see the army or police recruiting in Penal or Barrackpore?).

In Britain, they are publicly advertising the fact that they are “head hunting” Africans, Indians and other racial minorities, and this is being backed-up by clear, positive action with tangible results.

Scotland Yard is said to be in T&T currently, trying to help us out. Perhaps we can learn from their experiences and policy of ethnic monitoring.

Their much-publicised, aggressive recruitment drive to attract African, Indian and Asian police officers has changed the face of the Metropolitan police service.

Racial equality measures were instituted alongside policies that monitored the ethnic balance in the police service.

These schemes were implemented via the Commission for Racial Equality and under the provisions of the Race Relations Act.

We must address the need for racial equality in the protective service. The last survey conducted by the Centre for Ethnic Studies, UWI, found a glaring under-representation of Indians in the protective services.

It can be done without sacrificing merit, unless Indians suffer from some collective unidentified deficiency that makes them undeserving or unworthy of recruitment and promotion.

Of course, there are historical reasons and explanations for these racial imbalances. But then again, there are historical explanations in every country to explain the status quo.

What is patently wrong is the disingenuous use of one’s history to justify present-day inequalities, in the secret hope that the status quo will prevail and continue as is.

The example set by other countries is worthy of emulation: public acknowledgement of the problem, and a definite policy that targets under-represented groups of all types and ethnicities in different areas, in both the private and public sector, to achieve racial equality without compromising the concept of meritocracy.

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