A hundred and seventy-seven years after slavery was abolished in the British West Indies, Jamaica’s national training agency – HEART Trust – still has to deal with colour-prejudiced employers who are requesting that trainees be brown or light-skinned as a prerequisite for employment in their firms.
A highly placed source at HEART Trust told our news team that on the one hand, some employers note the discriminatory requests on forms provided by HEART Trust under a section that asks them to list specifications that the prospective trainee should meet.
On the one hand, some employers spew out their bigoted requirement to the face of the HEART Trust’s training agents or training support officers. “Some are brazen enough,” the source said.
“We have had certain firms that have required persons of a certain complexion,” said the well-placed informant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak with the media.
“I was very blown by the request,” said a HEART Trust employee who personally have dealt with clients making such requests. “We try our best not to (accommodate the discrimination) … sometimes we try to ignore the request,” the employee added.
Our news team understands that in a bid to discourage the discrimination, HEART Trust often drop entities that make such requests, from the list of establishments trainees are sent to for job experience.
The colour-specific requests come from proprietors, personnel managers or the administrative staff who are asked to handle the process of securing trainees for the organisation.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Gleaner source pointed out that the prejudice usually surfaces when employers are seeking trainees to fill “front counter staff” positions as those persons are deemed to be the face of the organisation.
Noted psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj, who is also CEO of the Job Bank – an entity that screens and assesses prospective employees for its corporate clients – said the skin-tone discrimination is still clear and present but has largely retreated underground.
“It is usually not articulated. I have heard of it. Years ago it was more specific for front-line positions such as receptionists and those dealing specifically with clients.
“There was a time in Jamaica that it (being of a light complexion) was one of the criteria to work in a bank,” said Semaj.
He added: “It still is (a problem). You can’t blatantly come out and say it (because) Jamaica is still a black country (therefore) it is not something they can come out and say but they will find subtle ways.”
The psychologist explained that many people in Jamaica are still of the opinion that persons with lighter complexion are more attractive.