Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Institutional racism?

In case the reference of one extreme to the other was a bit oblique, in 1982 I swapped a very cold Norway for a very hot Saudi Arabia, although it has to be said that society was also diametrically opposite as well!

Saudi struck me as what I initially took to be a very racist place. The Arabs were top of the pecking order, with Yanks trailing second place. Canucks were third, Brits were fourth, followed by white europeans. Filipilos did most of the practical graft and at the bottom of the pile were Koreans who appeared to make up the road gangs. There didn't seem to be too many Indians (or Pakistanis) although I later discovered that they tended to work in the Countries with former British influence, where you were likely to find Cable & Wireless.

I eventually realised that Aramco was not strictly racist, they just chose employees to meet their skill requirements and paid the going rate according to the home economy (which hurt when I found that Canadians were earning twice what I was, but that is market forces for you). They quite happily gave a new Indian employee Bachelor accommodation on site in with my Brit friends because he was a Brit according to his passport and the colour of his skin was irrelevant in the decision.

There was one genuine bit of institutional racism they could be accused of, however. If we weren't Muslims, we were infidels and all second class citizens, or maybe third class, as Muslim women were of course second class by culture but probably technically had rank over us...

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