Racist Threats and Harassment Alive and Well in the American Workplace

A federal law that prohibits race discrimination has been on the books for almost 50 years now. Apparently, some employers haven't gotten the message.

Four black men have filed discrimination lawsuits against a California construction group, saying they were subjected to bathrooms covered in graffiti using racial epithets and hand soap dispensers that were filled with feces. In two other occasions, black dolls were hanging from nooses with horrific racial messages. Three of the men claim that they were wrongfully terminated. Supervisors reportedly ignored these graphic incidents of racially charged taunts, assaults, and episodes of discrimination. The men were hired as subcontractors but were employees of the construction company.

In Boston, a lawsuit against the Boston Water and Sewer Commission alleges racial and gender discrimination. The lawsuit was filed by two employees, a white female and a black male, alleging workers receive job assignments in separate rooms, one for black employees and one for white employees. The complaint contends that racial slurs were regularly used and tolerated by supervisors and that assignments were made on the basis of race. Women were “mocked and harassed,” and those who complained faced retaliation, according to the lawsuit.

Laws in this country punish the guilty in incidents like these, however, they cannot regulate human behavior. The laws cannot undue what years of racial prejudice have done to the psyche of our citizens. Human behavior still results in segregated neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. As seen in these recent cases, there is no denying the fact that it is slowly being diluted from one generation to the next.

This behavior is deplorable and I am constantly reminding America, through my blog and my novels that members of a civilized society should speak out against such behavior. We are a nation of immigrants, a melting pot society; why do we have such difficulty embracing and celebrating our differences? Why can’t we move beyond our prejudices? Why can’t we build a color-blind society? Why?

Watch for my upcoming book Betrayal in Black that tackles this subject.

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