Can new mobile apps for hailing cabs stop taxi discrimination in New York City?

Hailing a New York City cab while black may get a little easier in the coming days, if new technologies now being released have the expected impact.

Racial discrimination by taxi drivers is a phenomenon that has long plagued New York City cab seekers of color, many longtime residents and visitors say.

Even famous actor Danny Glover has had what many people of color describe as a common experience. The movie star caused a stir more than a decade ago when he filed a complaint with the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), claiming in part that he had been denied rides by several of the city’s yellow cab drivers because of his race.

“I was so angry,” he said in a press conference to discuss the incident. “The fact that my daughter’s here to go to school, it really upsets me that if she’s standing on the corner waiting to get a cab, she can’t get a cab. It happens to her, it happens to countless people every single day.”

All of that could change, however, with the advent of new mobile apps that seek to streamline the process of hailing a cab, while rendering drivers essentially colorblind regarding the race of potential passengers.



Incredibly, Rejected Asian Americans Start New “Historical Asian American College and University” Movement



Hun Loo “Lincoln” Gong, a self-made billionaire who designed the first chip that enabled laptops to automatically read both Apple and PC software in Chinese and English, was rejected from Harvard in 1981.

He has never forgotten that, nor the fact that it’s impossibly difficult for Asian Americans to get beyond the limitations of top institutions with increasingly high percentages of Asian American students.

“Schools just don’t want to go beyond 30-40 percent Asian,” said Gong. “It’s true for private schools like Harvard or even public schools like UC Berkeley. But think what kind of student body you can have with all those Asian American rejects.”

That’s when the light went off in Gong’s head.

“I never forgot when I was rejected from Harvard, I got a scholarship to attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania,” Gong said.  He didn’t realize it was a historically black school at the time, but applied because his immigrant father would only let him go to a school named after the family hero.

At Lincoln, Gong learned about the purpose of historically black universities, and how they served a real need when blacks were excluded from colleges before the Civil War.

“When you think of it, the exclusion of top Asian American immigrants now is just like it was for blacks back then,” Gong said. “Where are we going to get the best education if we get shut out of the top schools?”

Gong knew of other high level executives in the tech field who were Asian immigrants, now naturalized citizens, but were rejected from their top choices like Harvard, UC Berkeley, and Stanford.  Last month, during a poker night in San Jose, Calif., Gong got his millionaire buddies to pool close to $1 billion dollars to create a full-fledged university based in California, that would cater to what he called the “vengeful rejects.”

“Those are the students who want to let Harvard and Berkeley and Stanford know the schools made a great, big mistake,” said Gong, who still speaks with an accent and broken English.

The goal would be to buy real estate in San Francisco as a hedge against the education business. “At least we’ll have the buildings,” Gong said.

Then they will set up a virtual online university that will give opportunities to Asian immigrants abroad to receive American degrees, as well as Asian Americans who got rejected from the top schools.

“We will let them in for a relative small cost, and they can pay us when they make it big,” said Gong. “We have high standards, so I expect all of them to make it.”

The approach is unusual, but Gong said he thought the typical university system was overrated. “We’ll give them what they need to succeed,” he said. “We don’t have to give them Shakespeare. We’re very focused.”

The working name for the school is Vincent Chin University or VCU, named for the iconic Chinese American who was beaten and killed in a racist murder in 1982.

“VCU was also one of my favorite teams in the NCAA tournament” said Gong, who liked VCU because of its coach, Shaka Smart. Gong said this VCU will have at least a chess team to start, but with  ping pong and badminton teams added if they are competitive. “We must be able to compete with the world champs in Asia,” he said. “Otherwise, we’ll stick to our studies.”

Due to the current Lunar New Year, VCU will take on the mascot, the Snakes.

“The Snakes will be crafty and  un-traditional,” said Gong, “And we won’t  be afraid to be 90 percent Asian if that’s the way it goes.”

Gong made his remarks at a special April 1st announcement ceremony in San Francisco’s Chinatown. “Even though Harvard and Berkeley could be Asian American universities if they were honest in their admissions policies, VCU will be the first of this country’s official Historical Asian American Colleges and Universities,” said Gong.

Emil Guillermo is an award-winning journalist and commentator on race and diversity issues. Based in California, he writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Discrimination Against Asians In College Admissions

46 minutes of aradio show about Descrimination against Asians in college students

In just days now, spring college admissions letters will start to flow.  Here’s a wrinkle you may not have thought of.  A lot of Asian-Americans, with high scores and high grades, feel they’re not getting an even break.  Feel that top colleges are tapping the brakes on Asian-American admissions to hold down Asian-American enrollment.

Meaning an Asian-American kid, they say, has to clear an unfairly high bar to get in.  In the age of Tiger Mom talk and affirmative action angst, that’s a volatile charge.

This hour, On Point:  college admissions, and the Asian-American factor.

-Tom Ashbrook



Carolyn Chen, director in Asian American Studies at Northwestern University, where she is also professor of sociology. In December she wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled, “Asians: Too Smart for Their Own Good?

Rod Bugarin, has spent more than 15 years in admissions offices at selective schools, including Wesleyan, Brown and Columbia. In the New York Times’ Room for Debate pages, he wrote a response to Carolyn Chen’s op-ed: “Scores Aren’t the Only Qualification.”

David Hollinger, professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1992.

Creeping Sharia: Dinner lady sacked for serving Muslim children with non-halal meat at multi-faith school

islamic logic;  it’s ok to force non-muslim kids to eat inhumanely ritual slaughtered halal meat but giving non-hala to muslim kids by mistake gets you fired and is an insult to islam.





All 1,400 students at Moseley school are served halal meat, regardless of their religion.

It has not been specified what type of meat was served, but the person responsible for serving the food was dismissed following a disciplinary hearing last Monday.

Parents were informed of the mistake this month, and reacted with outrage, forcing headteacher Carl Jansen to apologise for the ‘unintentional error’.

However, Muslim parents are demanding others be held accountable for the mistake, which they say call ‘an insult to our faith’.

‘The school have failed the children,’ one parent said yesterday. ‘How did this meal get into the school system to be fed to the children?

‘It’s just shocking that dietary requirements haven’t been met.’

‘It is a disgrace that this could be allowed to happen and we demand more action is take,’ a father of a sixth form student said yesterday.

‘It could not just be the error or one lady, there must be people at the top responsible too who also need to be sacked. It is an insult to our faith.’

Not all parents have taken the news with the same shock, saying the dinner lady should not have been sacked over a mistake.

‘It’s a little bit harsh to sack somebody because of one little mistake,’ father-of-three Barry Jackman said.

‘Yes, we have to respect religions and standards which are expected – but it was a one-off and surely the lady doesn’t deserve to lose her job.’

The details of the non-halal school dinner only came to light last month, when provider Birmingham council department Direct Services confirmed the mistake.

Sheila Walker, head of Direct Services, said: ‘This was found to be due to an error and was unintentional, nevertheless, we have failed to ensure the integrity of Halal only food at Moseley School.’

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson added: ‘We of course apologise for any concerns this has caused.’


English professor brings discrimination suit




Macalester College is being sued by English Professor Wang Ping for discrimination in the promotion process. According to court documents, Wang is filing under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, claiming that she was unlawfully discriminated against by the college on the basis of gender, race and national origin.

President Brian Rosenberg confirmed that the college was involved in a legal case with Wang.

“To be clear, she is suing us,” Rosenberg said. Rosenberg declined to comment further on the case.

In the lawsuit against the college, Wang—who is currently on sabbatical and not teaching any courses this semester—is requesting compensation for all earnings, wages, and other benefits she contends that she would have received if it weren’t for the alleged discriminatory practices of the college. Wang also requests damages for mental anguish and emotional distress she has suffered, and a declaratory judgement that the College’s practices related to her promotion process are unlawful.

Wang was hired by Macalester in 1999 and began working as a tenure track assistant professor in 2001, teaching Creative Writing in the English Department. In 2003, Wang’s request to seek early promotion to the position of associate professor was denied by the college. In 2005 Wang was ultimately promoted to associate professor with full tenure, and sought promotion to full professor in 2009. She was denied her promotion to full professor, and was told in a letter that her application “did not provide sufficient evidence that you have met the standards for promotion at this time.” Court documents note that a white, male colleague in the same department also applied for promotion around both times Wang applied, and was granted the promotions on both occasions, despite the fact he had fewer published works and less service to the community. There were also documented procedural violations in the promotion process.

Wang says she was confident that she was qualified for promotion, and received similar support from colleagues in the English Department and other faculty members.

“Everyone told me my [promotion] was a slam-dunk, that I’ve done more than enough,” Wang said. “And I was denied. I was just really shocked.”

Wang filed an appeal to the Faculty Personnel Committee’s decision to deny her the promotion based on what Wang found to be various violations of the college’s promotion policies and procedures. The faculty appeals committee submitted its findings to President Rosenberg, stating that the FPC, which is made up of faculty members, the President, and Provost Kathleen Murray, had “violated Professor Wang’s academic freedom” by denying her promotion. Rosenberg ultimately ruled that there had been no violations.

After her failed appeal, Wang decided to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. government agency that enforces federal employment discrimination laws.

Since filing the discrimination charge with the EEOC, Wang was ultimately granted promotion in the spring of 2012.

Wang was born in China and received her B.A. in English literature at Beijing University. She moved to the United States in 1986 and went on to obtain a Masters in English Literature at Long Island University and her doctorate in Comparative Literature at New York University. A widely published poet, Wang has written extensively on the Chinese-American immigrant experience, sexuality in Chinese culture, migrant workers, environmental issues and industrialization. Wang is the recipient of various awards and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry and the Asian American Studies Book Award.

According to court documents in the public record dated Dec. 21, 2012, Faegre Baker Daniels law firm in Minneapolis, which is serving as Macalester’s legal representation in the case, will take a videotaped deposition of Wang on Friday, Feb. 15 at 9:00 a.m. According to court documents, the oral examination will take place before a court reporter, a notary public, and a qualified videographer.



OC Company Boss To Asian Employee: You Can’t Speak Vietnamese Even On Private Time



A veteran Orange County lab assistant who claims that his boss banned him from speaking Vietnamese anytime on the job–even on breaks or at off-duty functions–has agreed to settle his employment discrimination lawsuit prior to a scheduled 2013 trial.

Hung Trinh filed a state lawsuit in April but lawyers for Quest Diagnostics Inc. of San Juan Capistrano got the matter transferred several blocks away to the Santa Ana courtroom of U.S. District Judge James V. Selna.
Trinh, who lives in Lake Elsinore, claims he injured his back on the job and suffered “constant harassment” because of his Asian race by supervisorEstela Comba.
“Plaintiff believes that Ms. Comba had a problem with Vietnamese employees and specifically with him,” the lawsuit stated. “Ms. Comba would prohibit him and the other six Vietnamese employees to speak Vietnamese even when they were not on company time. Ms. Comba even prohibited the seven Vietnamese employees from speaking their language at potluck parties.”

According to the lawsuit, Trinh’s complaints to the company’s Human Resources department resulted in an even “higher level of hostility” that culminated in him being fired for an alleged unexcused work absence on Nov. 1, 2011, even though he actually worked a shift that day.
“[The company’s] conduct amounts to intolerable and discriminatory working conditions amounting to wrongful discharge,” wrote Trinh lawyers Rex P. Sofonio and Maribel B. Ullrich of Irvine.

In court documents, Quest Diagnostics officials denied any wrongdoing but on Nov. 20 they filed a post-mediation, joint stipulation with Trinh to dismiss the matter before a jury could hear the case.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
In California, it is against the law for employers to discriminate based on a disability or race.
Though Orange County’s Little Saigon is home to the world’s largest and most vibrant enclave of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam, issues over language occasionally arise.
As the Weekly‘s Matt Coker reported last month, William Leo McDougall, an 83-year-old resident of Laguna Woods, received a 16-year suspended prison sentence for killing Manh Ban Nguyen, his 94-year-old roommate, to stop him from singing Vietnamese songs.


British East Asian artists lambast ‘racist’ British theatre for lack of acting roles

Published 02:06pm
Tuesday, June 9, 2009



for years before the latest RSC racist casting of the remake of Orphan of Zhao. East Asian British suffered racism in the theatre business.



British East Asian artists have decried the lack of acting roles and creative opportunities available to them through mainstream arts organisations.

They believe they are lagging behind other ethnic groups and have criticised the UK’s theatre industry for failing to nurture an “equal playing field” for performers. The practitioners are calling on casting directors to make bolder decisions when picking actors and want to see national newspapers employ theatre critics from diverse backgrounds, in order to improve the way East Asian artists are represented in the arts.

According to writer and actor Andy Cheung – who has worked for the likes of the English National Opera, Yellow Earth and Twisting Yarn Theatre Company – most Asian performers are only offered stereotypical roles and are overlooked when it comes to “colour-blind casting”.

“Putting it bluntly, it seems to be that white actors can play anything and to a lesser extent British blacks and British South Asians, but not East Asians,” he said.

“I get the feeling that stage directors are not confident in British East Asian actors being on stage in anything other than East Asian stories. As a British Chinese actor, I feel like a black man living in the fifties.”

Cheung’s comments were echoed by stand-up comic, actor and writer Anna Chen.

She said: “I write my own stuff because I realised ages ago that parts are not written for Chinese actresses and colour-blind casting is all well and good, but it is one-way traffic.”

Meanwhile, one leading director who wished to remain anonymous, branded the British theatre industry as “institutionally racist”. He said that it should not be left up to specialist companies to provide opportunities for East Asian actors.

The director added: “We [the East Asian community] pay our BBC licence fee, we pay our taxes. We don’t get anything proportionate back. We need more funding from Arts Council England to help the sector develop.

“At the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre you regularly see black or South Asian actors, and it doesn’t happen with East Asians. That’s got to change – we make up just under 1% of the population.”

The director warned that the industry would end up with “egg on its face” when trying to promote internationalism and diversity in the run up to the 2012 Games, if it failed to stop the tradition of “yellow face” in British theatre – white actors donning make-up to play East Asian characters.

Earlier this month, a run of Bryony Lavery’s More Light, produced by Under the Bed for the Arcola Theatre, caused outcry for not casting East Asian performers, despite being set in China.

The show’s director Catrina Lear said that the company of actors had existed before the play was chosen and added that if auditions had been held, no ethnic group would have been discriminated against.

Filipinos win settlement in English-only case



Filipinos win settlement in English-only case

By Associated Press

Posted:   09/17/2012 08:41:20 PM PDT
Updated:   09/18/2012 06:06:15 AM PDT


DELANO — Dozens of Filipino hospital workers in California will share a nearly $1 million settlement in a lawsuit claiming they were targeted by a rule requiring English only at work, federal officials said Monday.

The settlement involves nearly 70 nurses and medical staff members who accused Delano Regional Medical Center in Kern County of banning them from speaking Tagalog and other Filipino languages while letting other workers speak in their native languages, including Spanish, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission announced.

The lawsuit, filed in 2010, accused the hospital of creating a hostile working environment for Filipinos by singling them out for reprimands and by encouraging other staff to report them.

The medical center defended its English-only policy as essential to patient care. In a written statement, officials said the hospital did nothing wrong.

Under California law, employers can require workers to speak English if there is a business necessity.

For decades, thousands of nurses from the Philippines have migrated to the United States to alleviate the nursing shortage. More than half of American nurses trained abroad are from the Philippines.

Filipino nurses in Delano said they were called to a special meeting with hospital managers in 2006, warned not to speak Tagalog and told surveillance cameras would be installed, if necessary, to monitor them. No other language groups were included in the meeting, the lawsuit states.

Since then, workers said, they were told on a daily basis by fellow staffers to speak only English, even on breaks. The workers allege they were targets of undue scrutiny, discipline, harassment and threats over the issue.

The hospital’s policy, which requires the use of either English or the patient’s preferred language while care is provided, remains in effect, the hospital’s statement said, though it has been updated.

As part of the settlement, the hospital also agreed to develop strong protocols for handling complaints of harassment and discrimination; adopt a language policy that complies with the Civil Rights Act; and conduct anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all staff with additional training for supervisors.

Delano Regional Medical Center is a 156-bed hospital located about 30 miles north of Bakersfield.





Joe Williams at Politico: Suspended for Being a Black Man

more reasons to quit getting news from the racist white media




Joe Williams, a reporter for, has been suspended for making comments about presidential candidate Mitt Romney that the company deems to be racially-offensive. During an appearance on the show hosted by Martin Bashir, Williams said this:

It’s very interesting that he does so many appearances on Fox & Friends. And it’s unscripted. It’s the only time they let Mitt off the leash, so to speak. But it also points out a larger problem he’s got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall: Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes on Fox & Friends, they’re like him. They’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company.

Do you hear that? Those are the crickets chirping in the background as I sit and wait for you to give me the punch line that led to Williams being suspended. I can’t find a single offensive word in Williams’ remarks, and the comments are every bit as professional as Williams himself. I’ve interacted with Joe during numerous interviews, and on every single occasion, he was efficient, thorough and thoughtful in his questioning. The idea that he has somehow been labeled to be a rogue is beyond laughable.

But you see, there’s a pattern and unfortunately Joe has been affected by it. For the most part, being born a Black man who speaks conscientiously or accurately about issues of race effectively defines you to be a rogue. There isn’t much of a disconnect between the Black man who is stopped and frisked on the street, and the Black male professor/journalist/doctor/lawyer who has his capabilities questioned, even when he does nothing wrong.

Cornel West was a rogue at Harvard for seeking to reengage the black community.  I was a trouble maker in elementary school when I answered questions without raising my hand.  Barack Obama was defined as a radical leftist by the Republican Party for saying that the wealthy should pay slightly higher taxes.  It’s easy for black men to be marginalized very quickly in most mainstream environments, primarily because people are waiting for you to say something that they can define to be volatile or dangerous.

In media, the pattern is quite the same: Just a couple of years ago, Marc Lamont Hill was ambushed by the Right Wing and fired from Fox News for no good reason. After that, Roland Martin was suspended from CNN for making remarks that I personally didn’t agree with, but were acceptable to many millions of African Americans. The consistent and unfortunate reality for many African Americans who work with mainstream (read: White-owned) media organizations is that you must either be a good little boy who goes along with the program or you have to “take your black ass back to the ghetto.”  Most of these organizations have little interest in true and meaningful diversity of ideas, they only want to have a black face or two at the table so they can pretend that they are making racial progress.

Black men on Fox News like Juan Williams are rewarded for speaking negatively about African Americans, but when Juan tried to speak up in favor of the Black community during the Republican primaries, he was slapped back into his seat and booed down by the crowd. When it comes to liberal organizations, you are allowed to become fired up and radical about the “standardized liberal package,” including issues such as gay marriage, reproductive rights, and the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. But the minute you get “too Black” and speak truth to power on matters that affect African Americans (i.e. racial inequality or mass incarceration), they put you back in the mailroom where you “belong.”

The saddest thing about what happened to Joe Williams is that he is the consummate professional (much more so than myself), dedicated to his job and darn good at it. It’s even more unfortunate that he was hit with a massive penalty for making remarks that were not only uneventful, but are also in alignment with millions of other Americans. You want to know why I don’t work for networks like Politico, CNN or MSNBC? It’s because Black men are never truly free if their platforms are supported by the descendants of their historical oppressors.

Independent, Black-owned media should be defended and protected as a matter of intellectual, social and cultural security. Strong journalists like Joe Williams, in such environments, would be allowed to flourish without fear of intimidation for exercising fair and free speech. We can never have true power if we are always living under an umbrella that is owned by someone else.  Malcolm X told us this a long time ago.

Joe Williams wasn’t suspended by Politico for being abusive, unprofessional, sloppy or disrespectful. Instead, he was suspended for expressing opinions that come from a point of view that his supervisors will likely never take the time to appreciate. Joe Williams was punished for voicing a view that challenged many Americans (including his bosses) to look at themselves in the mirror and see America for what it really is.

Joe Williams was suspended for being a Black man.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.



Brilliant Asian Americans face ‘bamboo ceiling’


NEW YORK — Asian American families churn out doctors, engineers and graduate students, but their high-achieving image hides a “bamboo ceiling” that marginalizes the fastest growing US minority, experts say.

Jonathan Saw, Asia Society’s senior advisor for Asian Pacific American Research, said Monday that a new survey demonstrates an odd mixture of success and disenchantment, with 83 percent of Asian Americans feeling loyal to their company but only 49 percent feeling they belong.

“Asian Americans don’t really see themselves as belonging to corporate America, even though they are very successful,” he told AFP.

The reason is that while Asian Americans tend to start strongly, graduating from prestigious schools and quickly winning good jobs, they later hit the so-called “bamboo ceiling.”

“You don’t see a lot of Asian Americans in senior leadership positions,” Saw said.

The problem, according to Saw and others at an Asia Society conference in New York, is deeply ingrained bias within wider US society against treating Asians like other Americans.

“There’s this notion of Asian Americans as the perpetual ‘other,'” Saw said.

“Asian Americans are always seen as great doers, which is great, but it only gets you to middle management. At that critical juncture between middle manager and senior management, where relationships matter more than what you do, those perceptions matter.”

Plenty of racial and ethnic groups in the United States — most obviously African Americans — have suffered because of prejudice.

But what makes Asian Americans’ problem unique is that they are trapped in the cliche of having to be clever — clever to the point of being nerdy, out of touch, and unable to represent mainstream American life.

That’s why the outbreak earlier this year of “Linsanity” — the media hysteria over Asian American basketball player Jeremy Lin leading the Knicks to a string of victories — was a landmark moment, said Saul Gitlin, with Kang & Lee Advertising.

Here was yet another Asian American who started on the expected track of studying at Harvard University but, in a rare twist, emerged as a charismatic sports hero rather than an anonymous doctor or programmer.

“It’s a turning point of what happens when you go against the stereotype,” Gitlin said, identifying Lin as a beacon for young Asians who have “suffered at the hands of this stereotype of being the smart guy, the geek, the tech guy.”

However, actor Sendhil Ramamurthy, who was also once on track to become a doctor, told the conference that typecasting in TV and studio films is as strong as ever.

“Asians play certain characters,” he said. “They play the doctor, or they play the smart guy. That’s very much still the case. I don’t know what it takes to change that, otherwise I’d be doing it.”

Experts say change may eventually come, as it often does in the United States, through market forces — namely the fact that the 17.3 million-strong Asian American population is shooting up and growing rich.

“Asian Americans are the fastest-growing multicultural segment in the US,” Thomas Tseng, co-founder of New American Dimensions, said.

Although the Hispanic market is three times bigger and “tends to get most of the attention,” the Asian sector is wealthier and higher tech.

Eighty percent of Asian Americans have broadband at home, compared to 60 percent of the general population.

Eighty-seven percent go online every day, compared to 73 percent of the general population, and laptop ownership is 74 percent versus 52 percent, Pew survey figures show.

“You’d think marketers would be falling over themselves to talk to this population, but that’s not yet the case,” Gitlin said.

“This is a beautiful marketplace, really attractive, but it doesn’t really always get invited. I always describe this market as the Cinderella.”



Apartheid on the Beach: Racism in Lebanon

Lebanon like it’s neighbor Israel is filled with institutionalized racism. Anti-Black and Anti-Asian sentiment is common in the region


Apartheid on the Beach: Racism in Lebanon

by Franklin Lamb

May 25, 2012

BEIRUT — As many visitors to Lebanon can attest, some Lebanese have the rather charming habit of asking them, “Do you love Lebanon?”  One assumes they actually mean to inquire if the visitor likes Lebanon and is enjoying their visit.  No doubt most do, given this country’s kaleidoscope of attractive and hospitable features that, to name just a few, include idyllic spring weather, wonderful topography, delicious food, a nearly unmatched collection of archeological remains from half a dozen civilizations, and not least, a friendly people who make visitors feel at home.

But with the arrival of the vernal equinox and the rebirth of flora and fauna, accompanied by rising water temperatures of the Mediterranean an uglier facet of this gifted country surfaces: racism.

Discrimination and endemic racist practices are mainly directed against foreign female domestic workers from the Philippines, East Africa, and Ethiopia, who work as maids and nannies for Lebanese families, and against dark-skinned men. At the same time, Palestinian refugees are even denied rights the others who are targeted receive, the most elementary civil rights to work and to own a home outside their cramped, fetid camps.

According to Human Rights Watch, some resorts do not even allow African and Asian domestic workers to wear bathing suits or sun themselves.  In 2005, filmmaker Carol Mansour produced a documentary on the conditions that foreign workers encounter in Lebanon titled “Maid in Lebanon.”

Each spring and summer, reports surface in the media of the many beaches and private swimming pools that are segregated and off limits to people of color and those judged to be of lesser socio-economic worth.  Among those cited regularly for blatant discrimination are several hotels whose swimming pools are off limits, as one sign at the Sporting Beach Club warned: “Maids are not allowed.”  Among the more egregious violators, according to Beirut’s Daily Star, are Villamar in Khalde, Beirut’s Coral Beach, Beirut’s Les Creneaux, and Beirut’s Sporting Club, but there are more than a dozen others.

Human Rights Watch has claimed that more than 50 percent of Lebanon’s beach clubs do not allow migrant guest workers from Asia and Africa in their swimming pools, and some even physically block their entrance at the door.

Race-based discrimination is practiced not just at private beaches but also has been attempted at Beirut’s only free public beach, the nearly mile long Ramlet al Baida shore, located within walking distance of Hamra and three Palestinian refugee camps, Mar Elias, Shatila, and Burj al Barajeneh as well as the Hezbollah area of Dahiyeh. With its wide beach, excellent sand, generally sparse flotsam and jetsam from Saida’s huge garbage mountain that Lebanon’s south to north current deposits during storms at all beaches to its north, and no entrance fee, Ramlet al Baida is popular with foreign workers and low income and refugee families from several countries in the region forced recently into Lebanon by western invasions of their country.

For years, some residents from the more than 150 high-rise apartments buildings, across from Rafik Hariri Boulevard from RAB beach, many owned by wealthy foreigners from the Gulf, have been trying to get this beach closed down in order to privatize it for their exclusive personal use.  Hezbollah and some progressive civic organizations have to date blocked the theft of this priceless public space and following a series of beach cleanups, some by Palestinian ‘camp kids’ and environmental groups, the Beirut municipality, to its credit, has started regular trash collections from RAB beach and to educate beach goers to deposit their picnic waste in the recently placed trash bins.

But this has not stopped certain publicly paid lifeguards from trying to segregate this public beach and shunt certain targeted beach users, including foreign domestic workers, Middle Eastern refugees from Iraq, Kurdistan, Africa, and Palestine, to the north end of RAB, very close to where the black brook of untreated sewage from the apartment buildings across the road enters the Mediterranean.

An investigation conducted recently by the Washington DC-Beirut based Palestine Civil Rights Campaign is instructive. One particular lifeguard at RAM justified his attempts at segregation at this public facility by claiming authoritatively that “It’s better for them (those of color and refugee status).”  When asked in what ways “it is better for them” his ideas became vaguer but he did offer his clear view that “Palestinians should leave Lebanon and that they do not work and anyhow they often don’t know how to read or write—most are illiterate.” The gentleman is from Tripoli and may have been unaware that Palestinians in Lebanon are barred by law from working in nearly every possible job, more than 70 professions at latest count. But he may know something about illiteracy up north where he hails from, including the recent United Nations Development Programs survey of Tripoli which reveals a 21 percent illiteracy rate for 15-29 year olds, by far the highest in Lebanon and one of the highest in the world, due to high drop-out rates, especially among boys in the area.

By contrast, Palestinians, even while barred generally from Lebanese public schools and with school dropout and illiteracy rates higher in Lebanon’s 12 camps than in any of the 58 UNWRA organized Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, or Syria, still somehow managed in 2011 to keep illiteracy among their countrymen at 4.7 for those aged 15 years and above, including 2.1 percent among males and 7.4 percent among females. These figures are contained in the recent report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics’ Special Statistical Bulletin on the 64th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.

Clearly Lebanon’s Parliament needs to do much more to help their disadvantaged communities such as north Lebanon with its high unemployment rates (men more than 52 percent, women at 97 percent according to the UNDP study) and to allow Palestinians the same right to work as other foreigners are allowed.

Racism-driven attempts at segregation at Ramlet al Baida public beach as well as private beaches are reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid era, current accelerating trends in Israel toward segregating Palestinians generally from claimed “open to all” public facilities, and American hostility towards blacks that in many southern communities were enshrined in law as recently as the 1950’s with racist practices and profiling continuing today.

To their credit, a few Lebanese civil society organizations such as the activist groups Anti-Racism Movement and the Migrant Worker’s Task Force are fighting against these racist practices and some Lebanese government agencies are also.

Following a frank and at times heated meeting between a PCRC delegation and Lebanese officials at the Mar Elias offices of the Beirut Municipality at which the RAB beach situation was thoroughly  discussed including the possibility of a sit-in/swim in and open-ended demonstration, or issuing a call for Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command to conduct an onsite “investigation”, Beirut Municipality officials pledged an immediate investigation with serious remedial actions as warranted.  To  their credit they kept their word and no sooner had the PCRC expressed its gratitude,  than Nada Sardouk, director-general of the Tourism Ministry, sent a letter addressed to the owners of beach clubs and pools demanding  “quality in receiving customers, with no discrimination in terms of race, nationality or … special needs.” Among the circular’s other stipulations are requirements for lifeguards and free drinking water. Sardouk pledges that citations and fines will be issued to all violators.

Lebanon, its people and government, is very capable of removing this blight of bathing facility discrimination from their seemingly simultaneously blessed and cursed country.  As Nadim Khoury, Lebanese investigator for Human Rights Watch noted recently,  Lebanon’s  Ministry of Tourism edict baring race based discrimination or attempts at segregation, “ is encouraging in principle, the key will be whether it is enforced”.







But racism is unlikely to be erased overnight, either in Lebanon or in many other Middle Eastern countries where blacks are routinely looked down on. Racist taunts are often heard on Egypt’s streets, and in Yemen, darker-skinned people, known as al-akhdam (“the servants”), who make up perhaps 5% of the population, are confined to menial jobs and tend to dwell in slums. In Libya rebel militias often targeted darker-skinned people from nearby countries such as Chad and Mali and from countries further south, accusing them of being mercenaries of Muammar Qaddafi.

Filipinos, Sri Lankans and Chinese-Americans, among others, whisper of racist slurs both at work and on Lebanon’s streets. “When black or Asian friends visit,” says a young Lebanese professional, “I’m at the airport the moment they land to make sure immigration officers don’t ask inappropriate questions. It’s a disgrace.”