Friday, September 28, 2007

Bill O'Reilly: "Taken Out of Context"

Fox News Channel commentator, Bill O'Reilly, is using a spin-off of one of the most common defenses used in the workplace by Whites, who’ve said something that they’ve been told is racist, offensive, stereotypical, demeaning, etc.

Discussing his recent dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia's, Bill O'Reilly said that he "couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, [and has a] primarily black patronship."

O'Reilly added: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'" He also said that going to Sylvia’s was like going to an Italian restaurant in White suburban America.

Based on those remarks, it’s obvious what mindset Bill O’Reilly had and has about Blacks. He obviously questions our level of civility, table etiquette, social skills and upbringing.

HOW EXACTLY DID BILL O’REILLY EXPECT BLACKS TO ACT, WHILE THEY WERE OUT AT DINNER? Were the patrons supposed to eat, while swinging from vines? Were patrons supposed to eat with their fingers…all while dancing to rap music?

What’s scary is that Bill O’Reilly’s comments can’t be excused as isolated comments or as the comments of a crazy right-wing conservative commentator, who loves to be provocative (see yesterday’s post on that issue).

The fact of the matter is, I’ve had coworkers—plenty of them—make comments that are just as ignorant and racist as Bill O’Reilly’s comments. I’ve heard some say his comments were “passively racist” or “casually racist.” However, racist is racist and ignorance is ignorance. If a person can marvel at the fact that they went to a “Black restaurant” (and not just a restaurant) and no one SCREAMED for motherf*cking Iced tea, that person is a racist. Point blank! Just as a coworker making similar comments is a racist.

Mr. O’Reilly has since claimed that his comments were “taken out of context.” In the workplace, you don’t hear so much that comments were “taken out of context” because the preferred excuses are:

-- “I didn’t mean it that way.”
--“That’s not what I meant to say.”
--“I’m not like that.”
--“You misunderstood me.”
--“It was miscommunication.”
--“I misspoke.”

For Bill O’Reilly it’s just “taken out of context.” Bill O’Reilly says he just wanted White people to know that all Blacks don’t subscribe to the gangsta mentality, when it comes to behavior, dress, and speech. That defense is racist. If what he is saying is true, most Whites expect most Blacks to ask for motherf*cking iced tea, when they go out to eat. Thinking most Whites believe that is racist. And, if most Whites do believe that, it is racist!

But, the fact that someone (claiming to be educated) can believe that these comments are positive of Blacks, just goes to show how warped many American minds are, when it comes to acknowledging racist and stereotypical perceptions.

I’ll say it again…people who think this way are always someone’s coworker, boss, etc. And, they think that this sort of so-called “passive racism” is really okay and they think it’s defensible. And, these types of people usually won’t apologize, when confronted about their comments. They’re too busy defending why the comments aren’t racist, when they should be responding to the damage and offense they’ve caused.

Blacks are asked (and even forced) to apologize to Whites all the time. I’ve worked at a number of jobs, where Blacks were forced to apologize to Whites and I’ve had demands made of me in attempts to get me to apologize to White coworkers. I worked at one job, where an outside investigator—checking into complaints of race-based harassment and retaliation at our company—noted that members of authority at our company always required Blacks to apologize for incidents and couldn’t find one instance of a White person being required to apologize to Black workers.

Here’s a tip…if you’ve said something offensive and you’ve been called on it…just apologize. Hopefully the apology is sincere. If not, it’s not worth a damn. Bill O’Reilly would rather make himself the victim of a witch hunt, than apologize for what he said. Similarly, Whites in the workplace will often turn themselves into the victim of a hypersensitive Black coworker or will say they are the victims of political correctness gone wrong.

The anti-harassment policy at my former employer stated that the intent of the person causing offense was unimportant…what mattered was the impact on the victim. The comments made by Bill O’Reilly were offensive and racist—casually or not. That is why they are receiving attention.

By the way, Mr. O’Reilly also said that he went to a concert at a Radio City Music Hall and noticed that the Black concert-goers were “neatly dressed.” Again, the proof is in the pudding.

TELL US ABOUT IT: What do you think about Bill O’Reilly’s comments? Do you think they are outright racist or passively/casually racist? Do you make a distinction and why? Or, do you believe that Bill O’Reilly was really just defending Blacks, as he claims?


Labels: , ,

Black New Jersey Kids Ticketed for Jaywalking!

Black kids in Teaneck, New Jersey are being issued $54 jaywalking tickets by the police. The kids are students at the predominantly Black Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The youngest child to get a ticket was 11-years old. Not only did these kids get jaywalking tickets, they were also placed into police cars and driven back to school.

The police say they aren’t singling kids out based on race, so why then the presence at this particular school? And, why aren’t they having police wait outside all middle schools to ticket all children committing the same offense? Certainly this school has been singled out for a reason. There’s always a reason for everything. It’s not just chance that police are targeting this school.

The police also say they aren’t trying to traumatize the kids by placing them in squad cars. They say they just want to “get them back to a responsible adult.” Stopping a child to write them a ticket is going to be traumatic no matter how you try to justify it. If I were an 11 year old stopped by a cop, my heart would be beating out of my chest and I’d be completely terrified. Of all the crimes occurring in Teaneck, NJ and all of the ticketable offenses, this is what the police want to focus on?

The police have tried to justify the ticketing by saying they were only responding to “complaints from neighbors.” Okay. So, the predominantly Black students at this school are the only students in Teaneck, NJ, who jaywalk/walk off the sidewalk. Yeah, right. Point me to a school, where this isn’t commonplace. I see it everyday of the week.

I guess there aren’t enough murders, robberies, drugs being sold, etc. for the police to occupy their time.

TELL US ABOUT IT: Do you think the actions of the police in Teaneck, NJ are reasonable? How would you respond…as a parent? Post a comment or send an email to



Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mychael Bell is Free on Bail!

Mychal Bell has finally been released on bail. If you've been following the news, you know that Mychal Bell is one of the "Jena 6" defendants, who were overcharged for beating up a White classmate. Mychal Bell was being held without bail and had been imprisoned for months. He is out on bail and will now face lesser charges in juvenile court, which should always have been the case.

Whites have been acting as though Blacks were asking for the teens involved to walk away scott-free, but the reality is that most school fights or "jumpings" don't end with teens facing adult charges in court. Heck, most don't ever get to the point where they are prosecuted. Regardless, Blacks were demanding fair treatment for the teens. A protest was held last week demanding the release of Mychal Bell, who was wrongly denied bail. In fact, the judge and prosecutor intentionally failed to appear at a bail hearing, last week, as a means of keeping the teen locked up. Anyway, this isn't the last of the story.

For more on Mychael Bell's release, go to:

ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE: Racial Provocateurs Can Cause Tension and Future Problems in the Office

Outright racists can cause a lot of problems in the workplace. But, there are other types of people that can initiate race-based problems in the workplace. And, these individuals sometimes present more of a challenge, when it comes to proving allegations of race-based misconduct/bias. I’m referring to racial provocateurs in the workplace.

The problem, as I’ve witnessed it, is that far too many people don’t think about what they are saying in the workplace. The problem also includes far too many people who are intentionally provocative and going out of their way to push race-related hot buttons at work. There are a lot of so-called “innocent” comments made that cause a whole lot of race-related tensions to jump off in the office.

I’m not sure how often White workers really give deep thought to the racially loaded things they say to their Black coworkers, as well as the racially loaded questions they ask. And, don’t get me started on racially-laced comments that some Whites will openly make about their Black coworkers. I have often been amazed at how freely some Whites will make comments in the workplace, which have racial overtones. Their comments can be very provocative (a.k.a. insulting, incendiary, confrontational, etc.)

Racial provocateurs are the types of individuals, who while they haven’t done anything blatantly racist, may have said certain things that tap dance along the line of what is racist and what is not. These individuals continuously say things that are slightly or moderately troublesome to Black workers, but that won’t raise any suspicions among Whites. As a result, these are the types of White coworkers, supervisors/managers or executives that will prompt the defensive response, “Oh, I don’t think he/she is like that” following a complaint from a Black worker.

The reality is that some Whites know how to work and manipulate that borderline better than others. While some outrights racists are so full of loathing for Blacks that they don’t take any precautions in trying to hide their motivation for denying a promotion, recommending a suspension, etc., others are more savvy and covert. In fact, they can even throw off many of their Black coworkers. The racial provocateur is often artful at dodging the label of an outright racist.

Nevertheless, these individuals are capable of initiating a chain of events that quickly take on a prominent race-based tone and that can spiral into a race-based issue that impacts one staffer, an entire segment of a department or even larger numbers of employees.

When Black workers must have a continued relationship with Whites who REPEATEDLY make racially incendiary comments, tension often builds and an environment of suspicion can begin to develop. The Black worker rightly or wrongly may perceive this person as a closet racist and the person very may well be. However, there isn’t any explicit proof that will be acted upon by an HR department or supervisor because many of their comments will be explained away or the Black worker will be labeled as hypersensitive and overreacting to their White coworker. And, often, the White worker presents a reasonable pretext to explain away any racial intent or harm caused by their words or actions.

Here are real examples that I’ve seen or heard about causing tensions to rise between Black and White coworkers or within a department:

-- A white mid-level manager walks into a room, where only Black low-level workers are present, and says, “I came to crack the whip.” The White manager even flicks her wrist and makes a cracking noise after she makes the comment. She then laughs. When Blacks complain, the White manager says that it’s just an “expression.” There’s an attempt to downplay the historical context and to downplay that everyone in the room was Black. However, after hearing of the complaint from Black staff, this same White manager CONTINUES to make this remark solely to the same Black workers—and never to Whites (although it is supposedly one of her common expressions). Why? What is the purpose of repeating something that has negatively impacted your coworkers? Repeating remarks, which you don’t feel are offensive, but have been told are offensive is a very provocative action.

-- A white coworker walks up to a Black coworker, who wears dreadlocs, and reaches out (without permission) and grabs one of the locs, sneers her face, and asks, “Eww! What is this? Can you wash it?” The “Eww!” and “What is this?” are clearly an offensive way of reacting to an ethnic hairstyle. The Black worker is almost forced into a defensive reaction regarding the hairstyle. Following the exchange, the White worker makes it a point to openly stare and frown at the hairstyle and to stand an exaggerated distance away from the Black worker—as if she is too disgusted by her to dare go any closer. The comment and behavior after the exchange are very incendiary and will have served the point of creating the perception that this White person has issues with Black culture, and, therefore, Black people. The comment about hair combined with the negative reaction will serve as a piece of background noise in future exchanges between these individuals.

-- When Black workers complain about the manner in which they are given an assignment, a White mid-level manager comments that she doesn’t understand the problem because the Black workers are only doing “monkey work.” Obviously, this remark doesn’t go over well to a group of Black people. Blacks have lived with the comparison to apes, monkeys, and other primates. Go and look at the early depictions of Blacks in cartoons and other visual mediums. Blacks have long had their intelligence questioned by Whites with a superiority complex. So, any monkey remark is going to bring appearance and intellect into question—regardless of the so-called intent of the person making the comment. To compare work solely being done by Blacks as “monkey work” is not cool and is likely going to cause problems in future interactions between the people involved.

In each of these examples, the individuals involved began to have issues working together and the issues often escalated in nature. The White worker never apologized and often became defensive about the implication that they made a racist or insensitive remark. They wouldn’t take ownership of the issue and actually began to behave in a very indignant manner. The Black workers often figured they had the White person begged as a closet racist and began to see and hear racist actions and comments with more and more frequency. One thoughtless comment and a reaction that adds fuel to the fire or marginalizes any damage caused by careless remarks can send everyone down the path of future race-based confrontations.

That's why employers must be vigilant in policing their workforce and they must be truly vigilant, when listening to and addressing complaints from employees. Something that sounds "petty" can spark a much bigger problem in the future. Racially insenstive remarks aren't usually forgotten--at least by Black workers. Employers must not marginalize racially-loaded language. They must reinforce that they do not tolerate racist behavior or comments and must take action if someone persists in being racially provocative.

Unfortunately, dealing with racially provocative comments from intentionally and unintentionally ignorant coworkers is just one more issue—and distraction—that Blacks must deal with in the workplace.

TELL US ABOUT IT: Has a White coworker made a comment with racial overtones that derailed your relationship or caused you to be suspicious of this person’s perceptions and attitudes towards Blacks? If so, tell us about it. Post a comment or send an email to

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Noose "Pranks"

Why do I keep talking about nooses? Well, it was only a few years ago that the EEOC had at least 20 noose-related complaints filed by workers. This represented a disproportionately high number of complaints and was higher than in previous years.

In fact, during remarks to the 91st Annual Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Baltimore (2000), then EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro, said, "Since the late 1990s, EEOC has witnessed a disturbing national trend of increased racial harassment cases involving hangman's nooses in the workplace. Such instances of egregious discrimination have resulted in the Commission conducting more investigations and filing more lawsuits. These cases are not confined to a particular geographic area or region of the country. Rather, they are occurring from coast to coast and border to border…it is sad to note the increase in recent years of the same type of behavior which compelled our nation to act 36 years ago. I hope that employers will once again focus on these important issues and assist EEOC in stemming the growth of harassment and retaliation charges and seek new ways to prevent discrimination. Employers who fail to do so are on notice that EEOC will combat egregious discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head."

On that note, let’s get back to nooses. While this incident didn't happen in the workplace, it involved White youths—White youths, who may grow up to be the supervisors or coworkers of Black employees…

The day after last week’s protest, in Jena, Louisiana, two White teenage boys decided to pull a “prank” by tying two nooses to the back of a pickup truck and driving by Blacks to see if they would “get angry.”

The latest Louisiana noose incident occurred in Alexandria, Louisiana. Alexandria isn’t far from Jena, which is why some protesters parked their buses at a lot in Alexandria and then made their way to the main rally and protest over in Jena.

The two White teens decided to try to incite the Black protesters to riot, after the rally over in Jena. So, they drove back and forth near where the buses were parked. They were intent that the Blacks in the vicinity see the nooses.

Well, the nooses were spotted and a police car was flagged down. The teens were arrested on the scene. One teen was 16 years old and the other was 18 years old. The incident is being reviewed as a hate crime. The older teen admitted that he and his friend wanted to see what would happen and wanted to see if the Black protesters would get angry. Possible charges include attempting to incite a riot. Almost forgot, an unloaded rifle was found in the truck. Brass knuckles were also found. The oldest White teen said that he and his family were members of the KKK.

I’ll tell you…it amazes me that people continue to pretend that so much has changed in American society and that no or very little racism or discrimination exists in any aspect of contemporary American life. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The racial attitudes of the 60’s and preceding years, that warranted the establishment of the Civil Rights Act, are the same racial attitudes that many Americans hold today. The only thing that is sometimes startling about these old school racial attitudes is how brazen some Whites are in continuing to reveal their real feelings about Blacks—even in a society that often preaches to the world that it is fair, progressive and accepting. While Blacks aren’t usually asked to give up their seats on buses to Whites, there is still some segment of American society that fondly remembers that time period and that still views Blacks with great disdain.

And, it seems from the actions of teens in Jena and Alexandria, Louisiana, that nooses are fondly remembered in many American households.

Racism is not supposed to be a family value!

To see a photo of the pickup truck and nooses, check out the photo in this CNN article at:

Happy Birthday, Ma!

I want to take a moment to wish my Mom a Happy (undisclosed number of years) Birthday! We’ve been some celebrating fools over the past week. BTW, if you haven’t seen Fantasia starring in The Color Purple, on Broadway, you really need to make the trip to NY to check it out!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The "Jena 6" - How Race-Related Harassment Sprials Out of Control with an Inadequate Response

The “Jena 6” of Jena, Louisiana. You’ve probably heard of them by now. The “Jena 6” are six Black, male teens (all football players) who were arrested for beating up one of their fellow high school students—White. The catalyst to all of the racial tension at Jena High School developed, when Black students asked to sit under a tree that apparently was reserved for their White counterparts. The next day, when Blacks sat under the tree, they found nooses hanging from the branches.

Three White students were accused of hanging the nooses and were suspended. However, the attitude of the top school officials was that the actions of the White students amounted to nothing more than a prank. They also implied that the noose might not have had anything to do with race, but might have been a way to tease the school’s opponents at a football game. After the nooses were hung, there were continued racial skirmishes between Black and White students. When Whites instigated the fights…nothing was done to them. But, then Black students beat up a White student…and the next thing you know…six Black students are arrested. The alleged Black “ringleader,” Mychal Bell, was charged as an adult and was charged with attempted murder. All of the students face serious charges.

In the past week, Mychal Bell’s conviction was thrown out by an appeals court, which said that Mychal Bell should have been dealt with in juvenile court. However, Mychal Bell is still rotting in jail right now. There’s been no rationale provided for keeping him incarcerated. The treatment of the six Black teens has reminded many Blacks of old-school southern justice—one sets of laws and rules for Blacks and one set of laws and rules for Whites. Regardless of which rule applies, southern justice assured that Blacks would come out on the losing end of any issues with Whites. In fact, comments by Jena’s District Attorney have fed fuel to the fire. He’s made remarks saying he could destroy the lives of the Black students with the stroke of his pen. And, then we got the heavy-handed criminal charges.

Today, thousands of Blacks flooded Jena, Louisiana to protest the arrest of the six students and to demand the release of Mychal Bell. Now, here’s what I want to address in this blog…

The way the school administration handled the noose issue is an example of how an insufficient response to a very serious issue can allow racial tensions and problems to spiral out of control. I have had posts on this site about Black workers finding nooses hanging in their lockers, etc. I even had one post that described how a Black male worker (at a warehouse) had a White coworker attempt to lasso him with a noose. This White coworker was so intent on putting this Black man in a noose that he perched himself high up on some boxes to give himself a good trajectory form which to hang this Black man.

In Jena, by saying that the Whites were engaged in a “prank” the school administrators were silently issuing a statement—to Whites and Blacks—that they didn’t consider the noose issue to be of any real significance. It was just kids being kids. They didn’t get the significance of what they’d done. But, to believe that…you’d have to believe the three White students to be stupid—which is a possibility. However, even the stupid in this country know full well what a noose symbolizes to Blacks and they know the threat and intimidation that is conveyed. Of all the things they could have hung in that tree, it is no accident that they choose nooses.

Just as it wasn’t an accident in Jena, it’s not an accident when nooses are hung in the workplace.

Federal courts have already rendered decisions, which state that images of or actual nooses and burning crosses are two examples of ISOLATED INCIDENTS that are so egregious that they rise to the level of Civil Rights violations. Historically, the noose and burning cross have been used as part of domestic terrorism against Blacks. That is why one instance of using these visual symbols of racism, terrorism, harassment/hostility, intimidation, and physical threats can bring huge liability issues against an employer.

The visual power of a noose and its impact on Blacks of any age is a fact that isn’t lost on anyone, including the White students of Jena. The response to the hanging nooses should have been as extreme as the act of intentionally harassing and terrorizing fellow students in a race and hate-filled manner.

The question in all of this is…why weren’t any charges brought up against the White students? Why didnt the White D.A. use his pen against "his own"?

I will be writing more about this issue in future posts.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE “JENA 6”? Do you think protesters should have descended on the town of Jena, Louisiana?

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Affirmative Defense

If you file a charge against your employer alleging some form of race discrimination (violations of the Federal statutes of The Civil Rights Act), your employer will have to determine how to respond to the allegations. Whether you have filed a complaint with an organization such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or you have sought the assistance of an attorney, your employer isn’t very likely to instantly assume full responsibility for any infractions of Federal statutes.

One option your employer has is to file an affirmative defense. With an affirmative defense, your employer won’t have to deny any charges that have been brought. However, the employer will be able to raise extenuating or mitigating circumstances in order to avoid responsibility in a civil case.

An example of an affirmative defense would be an employer arguing that it exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct harassment. Reasonable care generally requires an employer to establish, disseminate, and enforce an anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure and to take other reasonable steps to prevent and correct harassment.

Despite the attempt to rely on having written policies in place, it’s important to remember that there are no "safe harbors" for employers based on the written content of policies and procedures. However, this doesn’t stop an employer from using this argument in their defense. And, it doesn’t stop the complaining employee from proving that the employer did not take steps—or took inadequate or delayed steps—in preventing and/or correcting harassment.

Another example of the affirmative defense would be an employer arguing that a complaining employee did not take the reasonable and necessary steps to avoid harm from race-based harassment, retaliation, etc. by not reporting the abuse to management or taking advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities.

An employer who can prove they exercised reasonable care may not be liable for unlawful harassment if the complaining employee could have avoided all of the actionable harm. If some but not all of the harm could have been avoided, then an award of damages will be reduced accordingly. The complaining employee doesn’t have to prove they showed reasonable care…that burden falls on the employer. The employer must show that the employee’s failure to complain of abuse was unreasonable.

Keep in mind, even if an employee doesn’t complain the Federal statute recognizes that there may be legitimate reasons for silence on the issue. For instance, if an employee has seen other complaining employees subjected to retaliatory actions (e.g., fired, demoted, subjected to a hostile work environment, etc.), the employee would reasonably fear making a complaint. Additionally, if illegal abuse is so prevalent in the workplace that many people knew about it, the company would be liable for not addressing the problem because the abuse was so widely known that it is reasonable to expect that someone in authority knew of the problem.

Finally, if an employer files an affirmative defense, the employer must prove the validity of the defense. The employer can’t just state an affirmative defense and hope someone buys it. They must prove this defense.


Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Crying Game - The O.J. Simpson Do-Over Has Arrived!

You would think O.J. Simpson is the only person, who supposedly got away with murder.

You can hardly turn on the TV today (or over the weekend) without coming across some breaking news or a “hard-hitting” story about O.J. Simpson and his alleged burglary in Las Vegas. This post isn’t even about whether O.J. was the mastermind of a burglary or not. Truth of matter, I don’t give a damn about O.J. Simpson. Don’t wish him any harm, but don’t care about him. What’s been interesting is just watching all those White news reporters falling all over themselves—and taking attention off of really important issues impacting the country today—all because of little old O.J. Simpson.

What prompted me to write this post is a comment made b a White reporter on cable news, who said, “Wouldn’t be ironic if they get him [O.J.] on burglary, when they couldn’t get him on murder?”

GET HIM! “If they get him…”

That sums it all up.

For more than a decade, O.J. Simpson has been the Negro that got away. To put it into historical context, O.J. Simpson is the ni**er Whites couldn’t lynch at noon. O.J. was one of the few Black people, who could afford to play the legal system the way Whites have longed played the legal system (Claus Van Bulow, anyone?). And, right or wrong, he walked free. And, many Whites got all beside themselves. As a result, Blacks have been listening to Whites play the crying game every since.

But, I never shed a symbolic tear. Yes, any time someone is killed it’s a horrible thing. And, you hope their murderer is brought to justice. But, when Blacks have shed tears over the murder of someone like 14-year old Emmett Till, for instance (dragged out of his house and murdered in a horrible way for allegedly whistling at a White woman), Whites have wanted us to shut up and let bygones be bygones. Regarding convicting the two men accused of murdering Emmett Till, the lawyers for the defendants told the jurors: "Your ancestors will turn over in their grave, and I'm sure every last Anglo-Saxon one of you has the courage to free these men." Sixty-seven minutes later (after a soda break), his killers walked free and then admitted to his murder in a magazine (they were paid $4,000); it was all supposed to be good. They were cleared by a jury of their peers after all, right? It was a “fair” trial!

So, I say this…you can’t demand that Blacks shut up, when it comes to getting justice for “their own” and then demand that Blacks scream and holler, when you don’t think you get justice for a couple of “your own.” You can’t have it both ways. That’s why some Blacks have been amazed at the White response to the O.J. Simpson case. See, we’re accustomed to seeing someone get away with murder, civilians and cops (Amadou Diallo, anyone?). We’ve learned to lick our wounds and move on, even from some of the most horrendous crimes imaginable.

Without even getting into the horrors of slavery, I’ll reserve my tears and outrage for my Black brothers and sisters, who were lynched, shot, beaten, dragged, blown up in churches, etc. by Whites, who went unpunished by the legal system. They went unpunished because of refusals to conduct investigations, the concealment of evidence, the destruction of evidence, corruption by police officers, perjury by witnesses and the accused, and by juries refusing to send “one of their own” to jail for killing a Black person.

Some Whites have historically held the attitude that any Black complaints about racism, especially racism in the judicial system, amounts to nothing more than Blacks being a bunch of cry babies and Blacks refusing to take accountability for the fact that we are supposedly predisposed to engage in illegal activity. “You know how those people are.”

Blacks have historically had to listen to Whites tell us that our men and women in the legal system got a fair shake. “They had a jury of their peers.” Here’s what’s funny…when a Black person has an all White or predominately White jury, we’re told we’ve had a jury of our peers. And, we’re told that those Whites were open-minded, fair, and determined to uphold the law.

But, when O.J. Simpson got a jury of his peers, which just so happened to be a predominately Black jury (vetted and agreed to by the prosecutors), this jury of peers was accused of being stupid, accused of intentionally ignoring evidence, and accused of playing the race card in O.J.’s favor. Again, White people, you can’t have it both ways. A jury of peers is a jury of peers. Yet, all weekend and today, I’ve heard countless disparaging remarks about O.J. Simpson’s “Black jury.”

Whites got their crack at O.J. more than a decade ago. Now, he’s finally given them some form of a do-over.

The truth is we will never stop hearing about the trials and tribulations of O.J. Simpson—even if he goes to jail for up to 30 years, as every White reporter on news has been salivating over today. Until O.J. Simpson is dead and buried, Whites are never going to let him (or any other Blacks) forget how angry we collectively made them, when O.J. walked free and Blacks didn’t condemn him to the satisfaction of many Whites. Maybe this will all stop, when O.J. is dead…

On second thought, even when he’s dead, Whites will still be talking about the one that got away…for a while anyway. They might even dance a jig on his grave. It’s the only thing left to do, when you can’t perform the lynching—even a symbolic one.

Until then…get ready for more of the crying game. Blacks have been dealing with this sh*t for centuries!

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Just Want To Work With Someone Like Me!

A friend of mine (Black) went on an interview and called me afterwards because of a comment that was repeatedly made by the interviewer (White). The interviewer kept saying: “We really like our culture here. We like how things are.”

Why did my friend feel this was worth repeating? The company she was interviewing for had about 11 employees. Out of 11 employees, only one was Black…and she was the receptionist. It was also worth repeating because she went in to interview for a senior research analyst job, but as soon as the interviewer got a look at her…all of a sudden the job was being down-graded one component at a time. The more the interview went on, the more junior the job became. Finally, it was to the point where my friend would have wound up having research-related note-taking and word-processing as major components of this potential job. She was also told she would have to take a salary cut.

I remember working for an employer, where—more than anywhere I’d ever worked—I’d hear staff talking about finding people that “fit” or saying that someone was a perfect “fit” on the job. In fact, there seemed to be a high concentration of staff in one department, who were more likely to make theses comments than employees and managers in other departments. The department? Conference Services. The employees and managers making the remarks? White women.

And, boy, did they ever “fit.” They shopped at the same stores, talked about their nannies and housekeepers, gave tips on doing window treatments and Martha Stewart style home improvements, bragged about their homes and their husbands, and they dressed like carbon copies of each other. Heck, they even got to the point where many of them spoke the same way. If you closed your eyes, you really wouldn’t know who you were dealing with. They were so similar, generalizing works pretty well on them. They were elitist, sarcastic, arrogant, and dismissive. And, they each had a say in hiring decisions because they were part of the mid-level and senior management structure in their department.

Whenever it came time to bring anyone new into their department, they only cared about one thing…finding someone that “fit.” When minorities interviewed, they could never quite put their fingers on it, but something just wouldn’t be right. The more people got hired, the more you could easily see that to “fit,” you had to be just like them--White, from money (or married to money) and female. They wanted someone else to go to DSW with, someone else to get margaritas after work with, and someone else, who could keep an eye on their cat, when they were out of town.

Some would argue: Maybe these people weren’t stereotyping and maybe they weren’t racist. Maybe they were just looking to create a great team that worked harmoniously and efficiently. Maybe they just hired the best interviewees. Maybe the Black or other minority candidates weren’t the best “fit.”

I say this…if you are a White interviewer or someone who has input into hiring decisions and you can’t imagine many circumstances in which a minority applicant would “fit” in at your company or within your corporate “culture,” then you are probably a racist and—based on that—you should not be rewarded with the power to impact anyone’s livelihood. If you are prone to thinking that a minority staff member will disrupt the harmony, efficiency or any other aspect of department, group, etc…again, you are probably a racist. And, you don’t deserve the ability to have a say so about any employment decisions.

Let me tell you about those women, who were preoccupied with “fit.” They went out of their way to make a Black, male Meeting Planner appear to be incompetent. They would go to the director of the department and claim that he botched nearly every assignment—by leaving steps out, skirting away from instructions, and displaying other performance deficiencies. They even went as far as to start the rumor that he had a learning disability. He was a college graduate. And, he didn’t have a learning disability. They also routinely called him lazy. This Black man was never eligible for promotion, based on their attacks on his work performance, work effort, knowledge, etc. He was a dumb, lazy Black man—according to them.

You want to know the real issue? They didn’t want this Black man promoted to their level, making the same or similar money, having more of a voice within the department, etc.

Within 2 years of resigning his position and working for a new employer, this Black employee was promoted twice—something that hadn’t happened once in the nearly 5 years he was at our job. And, he became a manager. Clients were requesting him for projects. He was traveling around the world, far surpassing anyone of these women. Still, when he worked at our job, they fixed him good. They made a coordinated effort to stifle his career and they succeeded. Stopping his opportunity to advance hindered his overall employment opportunities (and his pay) and probably represented intentional discrimination.

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, intentional discrimination occurs when an employment decision is affected by the person's race. It includes not only racial animosity, but also conscious or unconscious stereotypes about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of certain racial groups.

And, as far as the question about whether or not it’s okay to hire people or assign people to projects based on who people would like to work with, report to, be served by, etc., Title VII also says this: Basing employment decisions on the racial preferences of clients, customers, or coworkers constitutes intentional race discrimination. Employment decisions that are based on the discriminatory preferences of customers or coworkers are just as unlawful as decisions based on an employer's own discriminatory preferences.

It is illegal to hire people simply because they look like you or are perceived to be like you or who are perceived to “fit,” while intentionally denying employment to minority candidates. It isn’t okay and is illegal to deny someone a promotion, raise, etc. in favor of giving these things to people who are like you, look like you, and who “fit.”

You should listen to the language being used at your job and look at who is benefiting from policies, practices, unofficial guidelines or tolerated attitudes and behaviors (stereotyping, etc)., which may be illegal. If you believe you are the victim of unequal treatment, intentionally or unintentionally, you should consider your options. You may want to pursue the issue by filing an internal or external complaint.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why Non-Work Related Posts are Covered on this Blog (and another Sean Bell case update)

I have another update on the Sean Bell case. For anyone wondering why I provide updates about Sean Bell’s murder on a blog about workplace racism, there are 2 reasons: 1) There are sometimes non-work related issues that are important to Blacks and that still deal with the general issue of racism in America and 2) There are usually parallels between racist activity taking place out in communities and racism that takes place in offices.

For instance, the Sean Bell police shooting:

-- Stereotyping was one of the first responses to the Sean Bell shooting. Bell and his friends, although they had police records, were hyped up even more as dangerous thugs—even though they didn’t possess weapons. Now we see the new angle I mentioned here earlier this week, that is turning Bell and his friends into dangerous AND oversexed thugs. Bell and his friends alleged wanted sex so badly that night they followed a woman to her car to ask her to sleep with all of them at a hotel. This is despite the fact that the police were doing an undercover sting at the strip club because the strippers were allegedly doubling as prostitutes. If that is the case, Bell and his friends could have gotten “specials” right inside the establishment.

The same way stereotyping was used against Bell and his friends to make them seem worthy of being fired upon more than 50 times, many Blacks fighting racism in the workplace have to deal with stereotyping that often portrays them as being lazy, mean/rude/angry/defensive, insubordinate, overly sensitive, etc. These stereotypes are used to justify whatever doom has befallen the Black worker. The Black worker must be painted as having earned exactly what they got: denied a promotion, suspended, fired, demoted, etc.

-- There was an overreaction to the Black men before and during the shooting. No matter where you fall on this case, one cop firing more than 30 times (stopping to reload), and many other cops firing there weapons—all at unarmed men—is clearly an overreaction. The shooting was so wild that shots hit an elevated train (almost hitting a transit cop) and bullets went into parked cars.

Similarly, when race-based issues come up at work, White staff and members of management are often prone to overreacting to the Black worker and, therefore, are prone to overreact to the situation, in general. Instead of being honest about what’s happening at work and having someone apologize for abuse or attempting to rectify abuse, some Whites decide to overreact and they go on an all out assault that is WAY OVER THE TOP for the situation.

-- As with the Bell case, there are credibility issues. For instance, police said there was a 4th man with Sean Bell and his friends and this man fired his weapon at police. However, the record of police radio transmissions never show a 4th man was present, doesn’t say a suspect fled the scene and is armed and dangerous, doesn’t give a description of an alleged suspect, etc. It smacks of lies without putting much thought into it.

Similarly, Blacks dealing with race-based issues in the workplace often run into White staff or members of management with credibility issues. Despite gaps in logic and a lack of evidence to support claims against the Black worker, these offenders are willing to continue to engage in behavior and to continue to make excuses for actions that defy logic and require a suspension of disbelief in order to be accepted at face value.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. There are parallels to watching a dead Black man get a similar smack down as Black workers often face. Let’s be honest, racism is racism. The tactics are going to be the same, but the field of battle is what will change.

Anyway, you’ve got my reasoning for non-work related posts on the blog. Now, back to the Bell case:

The police have recently revealed the surprise accusation that Sean Bell was trying to get sex from a woman (the police actually referred to her as a “prostitute”), which supposedly led to an argument with the woman’s male companion. The alleged argument between Bell and this man supposedly caused the police to suspect that Bell and his friends were carrying guns, and/or about to get a gun, and/or were possibly about to engage in a drive by shooting.

I’ve already gone on the record with my belief that this new claim is nothing more than bullsh*t!

The latest from Sean Bell’s family is that the woman he was speaking to is actually a relation of his—by marriage. More importantly, the woman is a witness against the police. She witnessed Sean Bell’s murder and says that he and his friends NEVER received a warning from the police, before the cops opened fire on the group.

She also says that the police have caused her to lose her job by repeatedly showing up at her place of employment. The woman claims she’s receiving death threats telling her not to show up in court or “her a** was out.” She’s had to move because of the threats and fears for her life.

The police insist they are not the ones making the threats. However, it’s worth noting that her testimony is damaging to the police. Who’s got something at stake, as far as a reason to silence this witness? Not Sean Bell’s camp! Enough said.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More on Race and Color Discrimination Prohibitions

This is the final post (for the week) on the topic of race and color discrimination. I’ve been providing these updates on and off for the past few weeks because race and color are obviously at the core of much of the discrimination that takes place in the workplace. Discrimination is not simply about being passed up for a promotion or not getting the salary increase that you’ve earned through your job performance. There are many areas, where employers may engage in discrimination.

For instance, an employer can engage in discrimination by denying an employee training because they are African American, while allowing White employees the opportunity to improve their knowledge and skills—setting up an unfair advantage in the workplace. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and in line with this example, Federal courts have previously ruled that denying someone the building blocks for a promotion (such as training) is just as bad as denying the person the promotion itself.

Because of the numerous ways in which employers can discriminate against employees, I want everyone to be very clear about conduct that is prohibited in the workplace. I hope these posts have been helpful in confirming and clarifying illegal activity that is occurring in far too many workplaces across America. But, remember that simply knowing that an employer is engaging in illegal activity is only part of the battle. Once you have your suspicions of potential law-breaking, you have to decide if you are going to pursue any actions that will allow you to vindicate your rights—internally (at your workplace) or externally (through an outside agency or attorney). It is important that you document your case, maintain evidence, and prepare a list of witnesses, who can corroborate your version of events. Back to race and color discrimination…

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act states that:

-- Employers cannot permit race bias to affect work assignments, performance measurements, pay, training, mentoring or networking, discipline, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment;

-- Work assignments must be distributed in a nondiscriminatory manner. This means that race cannot be a factor in determining the amount of work a person receives, or in determining who gets the more, or less, desirable assignments;

-- Performance evaluations frequently serve as the basis for numerous other employment decisions, such as pay, promotions, and terminations. They should be unaffected by race bias;

-- Training is important for employees to become proficient in their jobs and to prepare for advancement. This includes both formal training and informal training through feedback from supervisors. As with other aspects of the employment relationship, race cannot be a factor in who receives training and constructive feedback;

-- Informal workplace networks can be just as important to an organization as official job titles and reporting relationships. Thus, an employee’s success may depend not only on his or her job duties, but also on his or her integration into important workplace networks. Employers cannot allow racial bias to affect an employee’s ability to become part of these networks; and

-- Employees must receive compensation without regard to race. All forms of compensation are covered, such as salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, expense accounts, commissions, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, and benefits.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 10, 2007

Compensatory Remedies under Title VII

Many employees, who have filed a formal complaint/taken legal action alleging disparate treatment, often wonder about the remedies that are available to them under the law. While each case is different, there are general guidelines regarding financial liability (compensatory and punitive).

Definitions: Compensatory damages refer to damages that are recovered in payment for injury or economic loss. Punitive damages are damages that are added due to malicious or grossly negligent action. Punitive damages may be awarded in a lawsuit as a punishment and example to others for malicious, evil or particularly fraudulent acts. Injunctive relief refers to a court-ordered act or prohibition against an act or condition which has been requested, and sometimes granted, in a petition to the court for an injunction. Injunctive relief is not a judgment for money. It is sometimes part of a lawsuit for damages and/or contract performance. (Source:

In a disparate treatment case, the statute (Title VII) allows the following remedies (as applicable): injunctive relief, reinstatement, front pay (until or in lieu of reinstatement), back pay, attorney’s fees and costs, compensatory damages for any past or future out-of-pocket losses and any emotional harm, and punitive damages if the employer acted with malice or with reckless indifference to the individual’s federally protected rights. Punitive damages are unavailable against a federal, state, or local government employer.

The law places caps on the sum of compensatory and punitive damages for which an employer may be liable. The caps are based on the size of the employer’s workforce:

Employers with 15 - 100 employees: up to $50,000
Employers with 101 - 200 employees: up to $100,000
Employers with 201 - 500 employees: up to $200,000
Employers with 501 or more employees: up to $300,000

The caps apply to the sum of: punitive damages, and compensatory damages for emotional harm and future pecuniary losses. The caps do not apply to back pay and interest on back pay, front pay, or past pecuniary losses.

In a “mixed motives” case, in which an employment decision was motivated in part by race but the employer proves it also was motivated in part by a nondiscriminatory reason that would have resulted in the same decision by itself, Title VII still is violated but the remedies available are limited. The law allows declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees and costs, but not reinstatement, hiring, back pay, or compensatory or punitive damages.

In an “after-acquired evidence” case, in which an employment decision was motivated by race but the employer proves that it subsequently discovered evidence of the applicant’s or employee’s wrongdoing that would have led to a similar decision on legitimate grounds even absent discrimination, Title VII still is violated. However, the remedies available are limited as follows: back pay is generally limited to the period from the date of the unlawful employment action to the date that the misconduct was discovered, compensatory damages are typically excluded for out-of-pocket losses incurred after the date that the evidence of wrongdoing was discovered, and reinstatement (or instatement) and front pay are not available. Other remedies, including compensatory damages for emotional harm and punitive damages, are not affected.

In a disparate impact case, in which a policy or practice has a significant disparate impact but cannot be justified by job-relatedness and business necessity, the employee is entitled to injunctive relief, reinstatement, front pay (until or in lieu of reinstatement), back pay, and attorney’s fees and costs. Compensatory damages and punitive damages are not available in disparate impact cases.

For further information on compensatory and punitive damages, see Enforcement Guidance: Compensatory and Punitive Damages Available Under §102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (1992), available at

For a fuller discussion of after-acquired evidence, see Enforcement Guidance on After-Acquired Evidence and McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co. (1995), available at


Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Non-Work Related Race Issues

I’m coming back from my illness with 2 posts that aren’t work related, but worth noting. These items caught my eye as I was catching up on the news of the week that I’d missed, while I was incapacitated.

Both of these posts deal with topics that I have previously written about on this blog—the Sean Bell police shooting and renewed controversy over the use of the n-word. Feel free to post your thoughts on either or both of these topics.

Sean Bell Sex Twist

For anyone without top of the memory recall about this case, Sean Bell was killed the day before his wedding by NYPD undercover officers. The undercover officers involved in the shooting fired 50 shots, with bullets landing on the platform of an elevated train, striking parked cars, etc. It was the Wild Bunch out on a city street. You probably remember the details by now—if not, check the archives on this site for previous posts.

Anyway, in new court documents, the police are now saying that the catalyst that sparked their interest in Sean Bell and his friends (outside the strip club, where Bell was having his bachelor party) was that Sean Bell allegedly approached a woman and propositioned her for sex. Yes, that’s right. The police never mentioned this before now. Yet, they now claim there’s a woman, who was asked to go to a hotel to have sex with Mr. Bell AND his friends. The proposition was made in front of the woman’s male friend, according to police. As the story goes, words were exchanged and one of Mr. Bell’s friends shouts “Get my gun!”

I think this new claim amounts to a bunch of bullsh*t!

Just like the story about a fourth man being with Mr. Bell—and aiming and firing a weapon at police—is bullsh*t! This fourth man was never found, but more interestingly police radio transmissions don’t show a call going out for a fourth man with a weapon fleeing the scene of a crime and having fired on police officers. Now we’ve got more accusations being made against a dead man. I can hear the cops now… “Let’s paint the bridegroom as even more of a bad guy by saying he was harassing a woman for sex—right before his wedding.”

No one remembered this before now? The whole thing smacks of a lack of credibility and of racism. It plays right into the stereotype of oversexed Negroes. The racism playbook is often the same—on the streets and in the workplace. We’ll have to see what else shakes out of this tree, as the case moves forward.


Eddie Griffin Bounced Off Stage for Rampant Use of the N-Word

Comedian Eddie Griffin was performing a routine at a Black Enterprise Magazine event last week, when he decided to throw around the n-word like it was going out of style. Well, it looks like Eddie should have checked himself or he should have checked with Earl Graves, the publisher of Black Enterprise.

Right in the middle of his performance, the microphone went dead on Mr. Griffin. The crowd went wild, when Mr. Griffin left the stage (quite pissed) and Earl Graves came out to say that the offensive language simply would not be tolerated at the Black Enterprise event.

According to Black Enterprise’s spokesman, “We believe that ending the performance was the appropriate action…”

What’s your stand on this issue? Should Mr. Griffin have been allowed to finish a performance filled with the word "ni**er" or was it the correct move to yank him? Should Black Enterprise have hired Mr. Griffin to perform, despite his history of using the n-word repeatedly in his shows?

Toshiba Computers
Blogarama - The Blog Directory <