Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Nondiscriminatory Standard for Using a Discriminatory Word?






There is a difference between saying (or writing) a word and using that word; specifically, the former does not always entail the latter.

By setting forth on this blog posting the word "nigger" I am certainly writing it, but not necessarily "using" it to characterize or insult or demean anyone.  There are many, myself included, who truly consider the use of that particular word to be offensive; accordingly, in what may well be an overabundance of care and caution, terms such as "the word" or "that word" will be written in lieu of the aforescribed hexagrammaton for the remainder of this posting.


The jury has spoken.  Brandi Johnson has been awarded some punitive damages in her employment discrimination suit against her former employer, STRIVE East Harlem, and her former boss (and STRIVE founder) Rob Carmona.  Seems that Carmona, himself of the Black race, used (and not just said) the word in an excessively strident manner when asserting his position in the organizational hierarchy in his interactions with his former subordinate.  Carmona had claimed that the word has both derogatory and affectionate use in Black and Latino societies (English translation:  Black people are privileged to use that word, but white people are not).

The jury wasn't buying any of it.  Carmona and STRIVE were hit with punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages.

My take on it all:

Firstly, neither Johnson nor Carmona are the cream of the crop.  It must be understood that STRIVE's intended target has never been the rightward reaches of the bell curve; to the contrary, STRIVE has used a "tough love" approach to get its clients to conform to the standards of the workplace and thereby obtain and maintain gainful employment.  Carmona himself managed to break free of the cycle, and, to his credit, now strives (pun absolutely intentional) to help others break free and become contributing and productive members of society.  Johnson, an employee of STRIVE (but apparently never a client) has a criminal record, which Judge Harold Baer found to be irrelevant to the case and therefore not for consumption by the jury panel.

Secondly, according to Johnson, "I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed."  Notwithstanding the tendencies of purported employment discrimination victims and other types of plaintiffs to overexaggerate their injuries, I basically credit Johnson's testimony at its full face value.  I myself have been the object of discriminatory bigotry, including but not limited to workplace venues, and can fully appreciate the damages such experiences can wreak.

Most notable, however, is that Johnson's attorney, Marjorie M. Sharpe, herself African-American, has publicly come out squarely and emphatically against the double standard which permits Black people to use that word while subjecting others who use it to loss of employment and steep jury verdicts.  Marjorie is squarely on target.  Too, too many in the African-American community have acquiesced in if not proactively championed the double standard, which, among other things, contributes in no small way to the violent culture of rap music.

And on a more personal level, I am far less likely to be convinced of the nefariousness of the word when those who insist that it is so ultraoffensive take license themselves to use it.

This case will likely set precedent, and not only in employment discrimination matters.

It is time for the Black community to take some affirmative action against their own double standard.


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