The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.
This is the story of racial injustice by The World Bank against a legal immigrant, an internationally recognized and praised economist, and a whistle-blower that exposed a $16 billion fraud against American taxpayers all wrapped up in one person.
Some have characterized this case as a demonstration of the lack of humanity that has “stained our moral fabric in the eyes of the world community.” A significant group of President Trump’s conservative African American clergymen and others have joined their voice to the chorus of a call for justice.
The racial aspect of the case epitomizes the most dehumanizing issue of race and intelligence, involving an Ethiopian national, Dr. Yonas Biru. Dr. Biru was the Deputy Global Manager of the International Comparison Program (ICP) at the World Bank. The World Bank’s website defines the ICP as the “the largest and most complex” economic comparison program in the world.
As U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen’s voluminous report documented, in a brazen act of racial violation, the World Bank “retroactively downgraded” Dr. Biru’s performance record, deeming it “too good to be true for a black man.” Thereafter, his titles and leadership roles were deleted from the Bank’s publications and websites and replaced with false and damaging defamatory remarks.
I’ve been working for several years to mediate Dr. Biru’s case and reconcile his and the World Bank’s differences. Over the years the case has drawn the attention and intervention of: over two dozen lawmakers from both chambers of the U.S. Congress; the U.S. Departments of Treasury and State; and, all the major civil rights organizations.
The World Bank commissioned an independent investigation. An external expert who conducted the investigation found it to be a “blatant and virulent case of racism.” Independently, the World Bank’s Senior Advisor for Racial Equality filed a shocking testimonial, stating it is the worst racial discrimination case he had witnessed in his “30-year tenure in the World Bank.” The World Bank management remained unfazed.
As an international organization the World Bank is immune from U.S. laws and courts. It is accountable to an internal Administrative Tribunal and its Board of Directors. The Administrative Tribunal is a handmaiden to management and as a matter of policy rejects all racial discrimination cases. Senator Van Hollen’s report provides references and links to many independent studies that concluded the Tribunal has different judicial standards for Blacks and non-Blacks.
Adding insult to injury, the Bank’s General Counsel denied Dr. Biru access to the Tribunal, claiming the tribunal has no jurisdiction to review the merits of his claims of disenfranchisement of his professional credentials. As Senator Van Hollen’s report highlighted, the Tribunal informed Dr. Biru that it will not accept appeals or claims from him with respect to his disenfranchisement and defamation claims.
In a mockery of justice one of the Tribunal judges wrote to Dr. Biru with a note of sympathy to advise him to accept the disenfranchisement of his hard-earned professional record and move on with his life. The Judge wrote: “Let bygones be bygones and try once again to rebuild your life and career.” His explanation was: “I have been in this business a long time and know what litigating against an employer does to the employee who sees his rights trampled without remedy.”
The option of last resort available to Dr. Biru was the World Bank Board of Directors. The Dean of the Board as well as the U.S. Board of Directors intervened on his behalf. The World Bank told them to stay in their lane.
The office of the U.S. Board of Directors and the U.S. Treasury sent Dr. Biru a memo stating, “we believe that further engagement in your case with the Bank would not be productive.” The Dean of the Board expressed sympathy “for the unfortunate case” and wrote to Dr. Biru that “according to our legal counsel, staff issues and the Tribunal are not under the mandate of the board.”
Recently some 20 African American clergymen, including African American Bishops for Justice, a non-political social justice group and members of President Trump’s Inner-city Pastors petitioned President Trump to intervene. Their petition called for “swift action” expressing outrage that “stripping a human being of his professional accomplishments, deeming them ‘too good to be true for a black man’ is a callous dehumanization of the entire black race.”
What makes the case a reckless abuse of the Bank’s immunity from U.S. laws is that in 2014 the World Bank agreed to restore Dr. Biru’s true record in his internal file. But it refused to correct the record on its website because the Bank sees his record beyond the natural capability of a Black man and the Bank will not acknowledge such a record in public for a Black man.
What is the record that the Bank would not acknowledge in public? During his tenure as Deputy Global Manager Dr. Biru’s official performance record applauded him for: (1) “managing one of the most critical programs the World Bank has ever managed”, (2) “his impressive work managing sensitive relationships between international stakeholders”; (3) “managing and bringing to fruition important methodological innovations in critical areas that have created a lasting-legacy”; and (4) “serving as the editor of a quarterly journal that was published in 5 languages.” His was the only World Bank journal that was published in so many languages.
His official record went on to note “The global program just couldn’t be successful without his expertise and knowledge of key players.”
The Bank has never denied all the above outstanding remarks are part of Dr. Biru’s restored internal record and the retroactively degraded record on the Bank’s website not only negates the true record but represents an irreparably damaged defamatory record.
Over the last two years some people have argued the Bank’s action is partly a retaliation against Dr. Biru for whistle-blowing; that case is just as scandalous as the racial discrimination one. Dr. Biru exposed the World Bank for using fabricated data to make China and India look much poorer than they were. This was done in order to (1) inflate the number of extremely poor people in the world; (2) position the World Bank to make bigger funding requests, primarily from the U.S., and (3) justify lending China and India tens of billions of dollars with low interest rate loans, burdening the American taxpayers who subsidize those loans.
More than 30 conservative organizations made a compelling case that Dr. Biru has sacrificed his career and his family’s livelihood, defending American taxpayers and America should not betray him.
In a recent Op-Ed piece in the Washington Examiner, Mr. Ken Cuccinelli, Trump appointee Acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services office, put Dr. Biru on a hero’s pedestal, deserving of recognition and national support. He underscored that the U.S. Treasury has recognized Dr. Biru as a whistleblower and a Nobel Laureate economist has confirmed his allegations.
Whether one gives more emphasis to the racial discrimination or retaliation for the whistle-blowing case the call for justice is unanimous and echoes loud across the conservative-independent-liberal political space and the religious community.
A mass prayer demonstration has been planned in front of the White House involving several congregations and choirs to bring this injustice to the attention of the American public. The plan also includes peaceful and non-violent protests.
I’m continuing to add my voice to the chorus calling for justice. The U.S. is the host and the largest fund provider to the World Bank. We also have the largest voting bloc on the World Bank Board, not to mention the fact that the current World Bank President is an American.
The President has both the financial leverage and political influence to nudge the World Bank toward a negotiated settlement. I hope he will.
Dr. Biru deserves full redress and justice. Justice delayed is justice denied and justice for Dr. Biru is long overdue.