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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Labels: Discrimination, Double Standards, Jury, litigation