The Belize Garifuna community in Dangriga and employees of the bank have made allegations of Racism and Discrimination against the Garifuna people that they cannot speak their native tongue at the bank. As if was not hard enough for the Garifuna people trying to keep their culture alive as it is, this banks adds to the already heavy load.
The Statistical Institute of Belize reported in its 2010 Census, that the Garifuna people is the second largest ethnic group in the Stann Creek District, who continue to contribute to the growth and development of Belize. Furthermore, the Garifuna language was being taught at the various Primary Schools here in Dangriga, with the goal that the children would embrace and feel proud of their heritage, but this is no more except at one Primary School. Moreover, in light of this recent discriminatory incident at the bank, and other workplaces, where employees are prevented from speaking Garifuna for fear of losing their jobs, the National Garifuna Council of Belize is saying that there is some credibility to the allegation, and is taking the matter very seriously.
President of the National Garifuna Council of Belize, Robert Mariona said that they are to meet with their members On Thursday to discuss the way forward in this situation and plan to make a release on Monday. Mr Mariano told us that the Council has very credible evidence that this is happening and hopes that the bank would apologize and in turn remove the discriminatory rules (if they exist) against the Garifuna language, which is the native language of the Dangriga community. We tried to get a comment from the Bank but the branch manager in Dangriga directed us to the General Manager in Belize, who we were told was out of the office.
This type of action violates ones right to express themselves and it violates the rights of indigenous people to receive and render service in their native tongue. This is inexcusable and United Garifuna Association Inc. (UGAI) wishes to inform all private sector enterprise and Government offices that it is illegal to restrict anyone from speaking in their native tongue
– The United Garifuna Association Inc
A press release from the bank goes on saying:
Recent attempts to damage the reputation of the bank through accusations of discrimination against the Garifuna community in Belize are baseless and untrue. We encourage the use of the official language/languages of any country in our public settings, as a courtesy to all our customers and employees, particularly for conversations that are conducted within earshot of a mixture of ethnicities. The bank confirms that there is no policy within CIBC First Caribbean that prohibits the use of Garifuna, or any other native language, within the bank. Our employees are free to use whatever language they are comfortable with in their private conversations.
So here is my take so far and I will wait for more information before I go too deep. Who cares what other customers think about what another customer is saying? If they don’t like to hear Garifuna then they can plug in their headphones or move to another part of the bank or even go somewhere else. They live amongst Garifuna and it comes with the package. A business has no right to discriminate against any customer especially in this way. You may not have a policy in writing but that does not mean you don’t practice discrimination.
Personally, I would take my money out of that bank and speak with what matters most to them, money.
We’ll keep you posted as we get more info.
- Commentary: Garifuna communities in Belize face major crisis (caribbeannewsnow.com)
- Letter: Garifuna take one giant leap… backward in Barranco, Belize (caribbeannewsnow.com)
- Garífuna culture in Belize (edition.cnn.com)