Minority groups generally have been integrated into mainstream society, but problems continued with negative attitudes among all ethnic communities
toward members not belonging to their particular group. Prejudice was directed at recent immigrants; cultural and language differences and immigration status hindered integration into mainstream society by immigrant and first-generation individuals from China, India, and the Middle East. Additionally, some members of these communities were themselves reluctant to integrate into mainstream society. Members of these groups often owned major businesses or worked in the retail trade. A constitutional provision reserving retail trade for citizens of the country generally was not enforced.
The Afro-Panamanian community continued to be underrepresented in positions of political and economic power, and many black people remained clustered in economically depressed areas of Colon Province and Panama City. These areas conspicuously lacked government services and social-sector investment. Prejudice toward blacks was generally subtle, taking the form of unofficial "right-of-admission" policies at restaurants and commercial establishments that discriminated against darker-skinned individuals or those of lower social status.
The law prohibits discrimination in access to public accommodations such as restaurants, stores, and other privately owned establishments. However, cases of discrimination in public accommodation were not commonly filed.
There were reports of racial discrimination against various ethnic groups in the workplace. In general, lighter-skinned persons were represented disproportionately in management positions and jobs that required dealing with the public, such as bank tellers and receptionists. Some businesses discriminated against citizens with darker skin through preferential hiring practices.
Race, Racism and the Law
Vernellia R. Randall
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