Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Toward Bias-Free Banking

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Toward Bias-Free Banking

Article excerpt

Nobody can say, "I don't discriminate."

Even the most broadminded person has certain things or characteristics they find distasteful or incomprehensible, which when encountered, distort their thinking. It could be overweight people, loud ties, bad breath, mumbling, smokers, large families, small cars, or, more broadly, Southerners, Northerners, Easterners, Westerners, WASPS, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Japanese, Mexicans, French, Australians, cat-lovers... you name .it. Obviously not everyone has all such biases, but everyone has some biases, whether or not they admit to them.

To varying degrees, people in a "biased" category carry a burden that others not in that category don't.

Several years ago, for example, The New York Times printed a letter from a black couple in which they described the subtle forms of discrimination a member of a minority group often faces. The gist of the story was that the couple was seated in a theater waiting for a performance to begin when an usher arrived with a white couple in tow and asked the black couple to step out of the their seats. The assumption, the black couple reported, was that they were in the wrong seats. As it turned out, they were in the right seats, and the usher was mistaken.

It's not just minorities that bear the burden of prejudice. Many class distinctions exist between members of the same race based on wealth, name, place of birth, religion, or sometimes simply looks. Any woman will tell you that an attractive woman gets much more attention and assistance-- not necessarily wanted--than a plain woman does.

Is all this discrimination? In varying degrees, absolutely.

Bankers are increasingly being asked---forced--to ensure that no discrimination exists in their business dealings with members of groups deemed protected by the government. (Wouldn't it be refreshing if they simply said, don't discriminate against anybody?)

It would be easy to feel bullied by this and either stubbornly resist it or, conversely, simply cough up chunks of money and bestow them in a "politically correct" manner. …

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