In the U.S., there has been much controversy over racial profiling, what Wikipedia  describes as 'the inclusion of racial or ethnic characteristics in determining whether a person is considered likely to commit a particular type of crime or an illegal act or to behave in a "predictable" manner.'

This 'method' of policing is overly directed to non-whites and to blacks in particular. The practice has become so frequent that when blacks are pulled over in their cars, it is referred to as 'driving while black.'

In Bermuda, the lingering debate centres on wage disparity. At the recent luncheon of the Bermuda Employers' Council, where there was supposed to be a debate on income disparities, a flyer was handed out which read: 'If we look at Bermudians as a whole, and we at the BEC do just that, you can see that the difference in pay between black and white Bermudians is TOTALLY (my emphasis) explained by history and current educational attainments and experience; and is rapidly moving towards parity and thus disappearing.'

That statement is such an elephant on my plate that I'm having a difficult time deciding where I should begin to devour it. As the saying goes, one bite at a time. First of all, how did they look at Bermudians as a whole? And how can they claim that the differences in pay are TOTALLY explained, meaning no ifs, ands or buts, by history (whatever that means) and educational attainment? They provided no data to back up this claim.

As a social scientist, I don't have that luxury. The Mincy Study on black males and their peers has been out for more than a month now and totally refutes the BEC's assertion. The main contributors to income disparities between blacks and whites, according to the Mincy Study, can be largely explained by industry, where a person works, and race or discrimination. Of the difference in income of $5,600 per annum, industry accounted for 57 per cent and discrimination 29 per cent. Put a different way, blacks (18-30 years old) receive a discrimination penalty of $1,600 per year simply for 'Working While Black.' Whites of course receive a premium for whiteness. Educational attainment only accounted for 14 per cent of the disparity in income.

Now let me deal with this illusion that the income disparities are "rapidly moving towards parity and thus disappearing." Again, the BEC presented no evidence of this. The data collected by the Commission on Unity and Racial Equality (CURE) since 2000 has shown that the income gaps betweens blacks and whites have hardly improved over nearly a decade. Perhaps that is what is being termed as a rapid move.

Gap 'will never be closed'

In the U.S., social scientists, after studying the disparities for more than a quarter of a century, have come up with a not-so-startling conclusion: after accounting for all the major variables such as education, occupation, family background and even productivity,  they have concluded that blacks will NEVER receive parity in pay and at best, even under the most ideal conditions, will only receive 90 per cent of what whites earn (Economics of Social Issues, Sharpe et al., 2002).

In the question and answer period that followed Wednesday's 'debate', I asked what steps can or are being taken to ensure that the same phenomenon doesn't occur here. The response was that this was not the U.S., stating the obvious of course. Never mind that we are seeing the same trends here.

Another statement was made about education. Even if that was the problem and was fixed, 86 per cent of the disparity would still remain. Furthermore, with regard to black males, one of the findings of the Mincy study indicated that they did not further their education because they knew that they would not be paid as much as their white counterparts, something which the data clearly shows.

So I ask again, what can be done to remove the discrimination penalty for 'Working While Black?