Black vs Black
August 16, 2003 8:13 PM   Subscribe

Black sues black for racism. "Dwight Burch, a former [Applebee's] employee, accused his manager at the Jonesboro, Ga., restaurant of repeatedly referring to him as a 'tar baby' and 'Black monkey' during his three months at the restaurant." Here's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission press release about the lawsuit (settled out of court for $40,000). The EEOC calls the case "rare"; BET says it's "increasingly common". But wait a minute: since black males make it a point to call each other "nigger", how can you tell self-deprecating camaraderie from self-loathing colorism?
posted by 111 (68 comments total)

 
Colorism?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:19 PM on August 16, 2003


Read the article. Although it wouldn't take a genius to guess what it means based on the info from the FPP.
posted by 111 at 8:23 PM on August 16, 2003


how can you tell self-deprecating camaraderie from self-loathing colorism?

if it's colorism, rather than racism, then it isn't self-loathing, any more than a white person who is racist is self-loathing (IOW, it may happen to be a factor in ugly behavior, but it isn't by definition what is happening).

If a light-skinned black discriminates against a dark-skinned black on the basis of the color of the skin, rather than on the basis of race as it is more conventionally (but not more scientfically) defined, then he is not part of the class of people against whom he is discriminating, just as white and black people share membership in certain classifications and can still discriminate against one another on the basis of different classifications.
posted by mdn at 8:35 PM on August 16, 2003


Actually the reader comments go deeper into the issue than the article itself.
posted by clevershark at 8:35 PM on August 16, 2003


how can you tell self-deprecating camaraderie from self-loathing colorism?

When it's not your comrade?
posted by Space Coyote at 8:37 PM on August 16, 2003


A good point, you can't. Unlike sexism, where "the first one is free" (within reason), and if a complaint is made, only then does it has to be stopped. But with racism, the assumption is unlawful aggression.
Courts recognize that some degree of sexual interplay is natural, and may even be solicited, until it is rejected, at which point "no" means "no."
Racism, however, can and often will result in immediate violence, not just a request to "stop it" at some time. Each and every instance *could* result in violence without warning.

In this case, while the offence may be racial in character, the underlying violation is both one of bullying, *and* racism "under the color of corporate management." Bullying, the lesser of the two, is much harder to litigate, as it is in the grey area of "assertive management."
Racism, as an institutional act, authorized, permitted or condoned by the corporation, however, is a slam dunk.

If Applebee's was aware of any of this and didn't do anything, they are going down. Even if they weren't, unless they can prove they had a racial sensitivity protocol, it is likely they will lose.
posted by kablam at 8:39 PM on August 16, 2003


since black males make it a point to call each other "nigger"

Oh, they do, do they? Tell us more about what black males do, I'd be fascinated to have the benefit of your wide-ranging experience of black males at various social and professional levels.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:40 PM on August 16, 2003


I'd be fascinated to have the benefit of your wide-ranging experience of black males at various social and professional levels.

Hear, hear.
posted by y2karl at 8:41 PM on August 16, 2003


restaurant of repeatedly referring to him as a 'tar baby'

Errrr, 'tar baby' is "something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself", so how was Dwight Burch a 'tar baby'?

black males make it a point to call each other "nigger"
Oh, they do, do they? Tell us more about what black males do


I've seen such behavior. What makes you thing such behavior doesn't happen Mr. Spiggott?
posted by rough ashlar at 8:46 PM on August 16, 2003


I've seen such behavior. What makes you thing such behavior doesn't happen Mr. Spiggott?

"oops! I forgot to call you a nigger. I make it a point to call other black males nigger. nigger!"
posted by mcsweetie at 8:48 PM on August 16, 2003


Oh, they do, do they? Tell us more about what black males do, I'd be fascinated to have the benefit of your wide-ranging experience of black males at various social and professional levels.

George_Spiggott, ask y2karl. He listens to that crazy "blues" music, you know. I'm more of a Brothers Four man myself.
posted by 111 at 8:50 PM on August 16, 2003


Although it wouldn't take a genius to guess what it means based on the info from the FPP.

I wasn't asking what it meant, I was raising an eyeborw at your repetition of such a meaning-free perversion of the language, you pompous ass.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:12 PM on August 16, 2003


theres quite an implied difference between "nigger" and "nigga". i'm white, and me saying one or the other makes a big difference in certain company.

and i'm not surprised that its used as a term of endearment, to oh, i dont know- maybe take away some of the hateful history behind it?
posted by shadow45 at 9:19 PM on August 16, 2003


Young folk today say it’s a term of endearment (if Junebug calls you a nigga), but if Biff ever dared form his lips to say, “What’s up my nigga?”, he just might get a beat down from the boyz in the hood. I wonder if white folks sit around and say “What’s going on honky?”. Do Mexicans refer to each other as ‘wetbacks’? Do Native Americans say, “What’s up my savages?” Are we the only people to take the name that was used to historically degrade us, often used before beating, lynching, or raping us, change the spelling of it to give it a more ebonic flavor, then claim it as a term of endearment? Have we lost our minds? Do our children think they are niggas because we call them out in this manner, especially when we discipline them?

From an African American woman's perspective on the use of the word "nigga."
posted by letitrain at 9:23 PM on August 16, 2003


The word has and always will be crap, no matter the color of the speaker.
posted by owillis at 9:27 PM on August 16, 2003


Perhaps the "n word" is being used ironically and/or in an effort to reclaim it, in a way comparable to the way gay men use the word fag. And I can understand that, but it still sounds dreadful to me, and so I will never use that word. Especially when I'm white - hey, I call myself stupid sometimes but anyone else who therefore assumes s/he can is very wrong - and I don't think it's a word white people should use. At least not yet, and probably not for a very long time.
posted by orange swan at 9:32 PM on August 16, 2003


Who's my caucasian? Are you my caucasian?
posted by jonson at 9:35 PM on August 16, 2003


black males make it a point to call each other "nigger"

"The Western Red-Footed Thrush attracts its mates by emitting a prolonged, high-pitched warble."
posted by Hildago at 9:38 PM on August 16, 2003


But wait a minute: since black males make it a point to call each other "nigger", how can you tell self-deprecating camaraderie from self-loathing colorism?

Do you really not know this? Because "nigger" is a fucking word, not the emotion it conveys. That's like asking "since men make it a point to say 'oh, baby' when having sex with someone, how can you tell consensual sex from rape?" If someone's calling or doing anything to you because they think it hurts you, then they're deliberately hurting you.

That forty or so years of post-Civil Rights society hasn't indicated the liklihood of someone not your close friend of mutual race saying something socially acknowledged as racist recieves a response other than "what are you, fucking stupid?" is laughable.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:47 PM on August 16, 2003


Are we the only people to take the name that was used to historically degrade us, often used before beating, lynching, or raping us, change the spelling of it to give it a more ebonic flavor, then claim it as a term of endearment?

"queer" has beome a more and more accetible term to use people who are not strait. it seems acceptible for queer and strait people alike.

"faggot" is less often used by strait people in non-demeaning ways, but it's somewhat common in certain mostly gay male circles
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:49 PM on August 16, 2003


theres quite an implied difference between "nigger" and "nigga". i'm white, and me saying one or the other makes a big difference in certain company.

Yeah, no shit. How many black friends do you have 111? There is an immense difference between "nigga" and "nigger". I mean, this is really, really basic. Even if you don't have any black friends, have you watched television, movies or listened to the radio in the last 20 years?

But wait a minute: since black males make it a point to call each other "nigger", how can you tell self-deprecating camaraderie from self-loathing colorism?

Even if black people were referring to each other as "niggers" all the time, even though they're blindingly obviously not, why does that imply self-hate? Or, more importantly, why do you think it implies self-hate?
posted by SweetJesus at 10:02 PM on August 16, 2003


strait people alike.

make mine mackinac.
posted by quonsar at 10:03 PM on August 16, 2003


I always thought that "nigga" was the unstated component of the Wazzup ad campaign. That said, George_Spiggot was being, probably, deliberately obtuse about the use of the word (note spelling) "nigger", or ponderously politically correct. (Or perhaps for a progressive he's not as diverse in his own social experiences as one might expect. None of these conclusions is especially flattering.) Then again, 111 was more or less derailing his own thread in advance with such a poorly chosen open-ender.

That said, as with sexism in the workplace, there are two types recognized for decades now. The first is outright discrimination: you can't have this job because you're a woman; you can't have this job because you're black. It is very rare, however, that such outright and obvious discrimination is ever stated to even meet the preponderance of the evidence standards of civil lawsuits. Thus we have the hostile workplace environment category, where racism or sexism create conditions -- often in aggregate subtle instances rather than obvious individual ones -- that make it difficult for someone to perform his or her job. It seems to me that a hostile environment need not be created by whites or males alone. This is the proposition famously mooted by Catherine McKinnon in 1979 that did not enter law for several years -- and clearly public opinion (even here on MeFi) hasn't caught up with the reality.

The article's premise, therefore, is bogus. It's not necessary to be a different color or gender (or other class) in order to create a hostile workplace for someone else. We don't need to define colorism legally. The only questions at play in this case are whether Applebee's acted forthrightly to deal with the offensive behavior, and whether the individual deserves compensation (regardless of whether or not Applebee's later improved its policies).
posted by dhartung at 10:08 PM on August 16, 2003


I wasn't asking what it meant, I was raising an eyeborw at your repetition of such a meaning-free perversion of the language, you pompous ass.

So let me see if I understand that right: you weren't ignorant, you were trolling. Is that it?

The word colorism seems to have been perfectly absorbed by black media, social research and the so-called black studies. Why is it a "perversion of the language"? Do blacks need permission from some kind of WASP grammatical board in order to describe a phenomenon detected within their own communities?

XQUZYPHYR, "baby" doesn't have aggressive, insulting connotations.

How many black friends do you have 111?

SweetJesus, not as many as I'd like to, but that was actually a shadow45 comment.

Even if black people were referring to each other as "niggers" all the time, even though they're blindingly obviously not, why does that imply self-hate? Or, more importantly, why do you think it implies self-hate?

Because I think words and actions, in their essence, point towards that which they mean. We live in ironic times, where things are supposed to be said with a nudge-nudge/wink-wink style and taken with a grain of salt, but I'm old school (so to speak); if you slander someone often, even if you're just "kidding" or "bonding", I say there's some underlying aggression in that relationship.

When this kind of interaction becomes a pattern in everyday language (even if restricted to certain subgroups), you have a major problem. That's why the Applebee lawsuit, imho opinion, points to something deeper and worse than a simple harassment case.
posted by 111 at 10:29 PM on August 16, 2003


you weren't ignorant, you were trolling. Is that it?

There definitely is someone trolling here, but it's not me. As far as ignorance goes, I think your own words speak eloquently enough on that count.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:41 PM on August 16, 2003


Because I think words and actions, in their essence, point towards that which they mean.

The great thing about speech is context.

if you slander someone often, even if you're just "kidding" or "bonding", I say there's some underlying aggression in that relationship.

If you get upset about a friend busting your balls about something, that's pretty stupid. People who are comfortable around their friends take it as good natured, and shrug it off. They don't become paranoid and see it as some underlying aggression towards them. Talk to people often?

SweetJesus, not as many as I'd like to, but that was actually a shadow45 comment.

So it's obviously none, right? Anyone who knows at least one black person knows the difference between "nigga" and "nigger", and knows that the meanings of the words are completely different.

And I know it was a shadow45 comment, I was agreeing with him, and asking myself how you could be ignorant of the difference.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:52 PM on August 16, 2003


I'm confused... what was the point of this FPP again? 111, are you asking whether the manager was misunderstood, that the case confuses or conflates creating a hostile work environment with "self-deprecating camaraderie"? It seems awfully like you saying, "Hah! PC is so out of control that even black people are being sued for racism!" If that's not the case, please spell it out.
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:56 PM on August 16, 2003


111"That's why the Applebee lawsuit, imho opinion, points to something deeper and worse than a simple harassment case."

You mean like African American men having the same civil rights working for an African American supervisor as they would with supervisors of other races? This troubles you?
posted by Dinzie at 11:03 PM on August 16, 2003


Same race bigotry is pretty common. Its usually falls between classes e.g. trash, undesirables, the poor, the uneducated, etc. What you call them really makes no difference, its still bigotry.

Also, I fail to see the difference between nigga and nigger. I don't think black people stop the conversation and yell, "Did you add an R at the end of that word?!" Really now, quit rationalizing that a group doesn't uses its own racial epitaph and using a barely discenable accent as "proof." For good or bad that's what is happening.
posted by skallas at 11:12 PM on August 16, 2003


My wife is a school teacher and she asked me what i thought about the 'nigger' issue. This is what i have concluded. If you allow yourself to be labeled 'nigger', either by yourself doing it or allowing others to do it, you have no right to be offended when someone you dont think 'should' be doing it does so also. If one allows themselves to be labeled such in public then said person is accepting and condoning that label. Above and beyond that when its used by those member os the black community that do, they generally do no make light use of it as such : "Well well my good nigger would you like to drop by for some tea and scones?" Frequently its a loud greeting that is intended to be heard. Quite frankly, if you choose the label, suck it up.
posted by MrLint at 11:36 PM on August 16, 2003


XQUZYPHYR, "baby" doesn't have aggressive, insulting connotations.

oh yes it does. clearly you've never been walking down the street and heard a woman being told 'come here and suck this, baby.'

that said, what do you want from this post? sometimes people of the same race do negative things to each other, for whatever reason. this is bad. this is what workplace discrimination laws are for, which i gather you could have figured out for yourself.

sometimes black men call each other 'nigga.' white people really shouldn't do the same, for reasons that are only common sense, which i gather you could have figured out for yourself as well. what else is there really to say?
posted by sugarfish at 11:38 PM on August 16, 2003


I went to a junior high school where black students were the majority – most of my friends were black. They called each other "nigga" all the time, but it was understood that I couldn't. Our families went to the same church, we lived in the same neighborhood, we saw each other daily, but that word was taboo coming from my white mouth. I could call someone my "brotha" but never my "nigga." At that time, Black Power necklaces and "It's a black thang, you wouldn't understand" shirts were popular. I think the reason the necklaces, shirts, and word were popular is because they were things that belonged to black people, and no white person could ever (safely) use them.

There was definitely colorism. I heard "Blue-black," "tar baby," "eyes and teeth" ('cuz that's all you could see), etc., but the very light-skinned were teased, too. Looking back, I don't think it was anything more than typical schoolyard crap: if you're different, look out.
posted by letitrain at 1:04 AM on August 17, 2003


If one allows themselves to be labeled such in public then said person is accepting and condoning that label.

Perhaps, but there is always the issue of intent. If you say "Dreama is a woman." that's one thing. If you say to me "Whatever, woman." or "You're a woman, you can't/don't/shouldn't _______." or "You would say that, woman." your intent in using the label is no longer acceptable, it is being used to demean or restrict, not simply to identify. The same goes with "nigga" and "queer" and similar labels which have been reputedly reclaimed by the population to which they apply. There's an obvious difference between a word being used in greeting or as a non-judgmental indicator and being used an insult. The former can be acceptable, the latter rarely is, especially in the workplace.
posted by Dreama at 3:21 AM on August 17, 2003


I love white people, but I hate rednecks.

(Apologies to Chris Rock.)
posted by pooligan at 6:10 AM on August 17, 2003


...uses its own racial epitaph...

Obviously the poster meant epithet, but gee, what an interesting slip.
posted by alumshubby at 6:35 AM on August 17, 2003


If you allow yourself to be labeled 'nigger', either by yourself doing it or allowing others to do it, you have no right to be offended when someone you dont think 'should' be doing it does so also.

That's ridiculous. I have a group of friends who call each other "asshole" all the time. "Hey, asshole, wanna play poker tonight?" So according to you, if they're walking down the street and someone calls them an asshole, they have no right to be offended?
posted by jpoulos at 7:01 AM on August 17, 2003


orange swan gives a good example: I can call myself stupid, but if anybody other than my closest, most trusted, friends call me stupid, that may hurt a little. It may hurt some people a lot. Just ask any kid on a playground about that unwritten rule.
With that in mind MrLint...If you have kids, and you ever refer to them as "spoiled brats," then I and everyone else get to refer to them as spoiled brats, don't we?

On preview..what jpoulos said.
posted by jaronson at 7:24 AM on August 17, 2003


But wait a minute: since black males make it a point to call each other "nigger", how can you tell self-deprecating camaraderie from self-loathing colorism?

Yes, the last time I checked the slang used by some black kids whilst hanging out informally is exactly the same language that would be appropriate in the workplace. I see no reason at all while the use of such slang from a manager to an employee could ever be construed as problematic.

O_o

I can't believe there's an argument about this.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:34 AM on August 17, 2003


you're all a bunch of crazy fuckin' honkys.
posted by angry modem at 8:17 AM on August 17, 2003


When 111 says "self-deprecating cameraderie", what he doesn't seem to understand is the concept of reclaimation. Certain segments of the African-American population have taken the word "nigger" and changed its meaning completely when used in the social context. Black friends saying "Wassup nigga" is now about as affecting as a group of white friends saying "Yo, dude." It's similar to how gays have reclaimed "gay" and "queer." Are they calling each other strange when they call each other queer? No. They've made the words part of their identity and come out stronger for it.

This article shouldn't raise any eyebrows; in-group discrimination is nothing new. I dislike rednecks, for example, even though they're white as I am. Certain gays dislike others for being too flamboyant. C'est la vie. Thinking that African-Americans are a homogenous group that should present a wall of solidarity is ridiculous.
posted by The Michael The at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2003


It's similar to how gays have reclaimed "gay" and "queer." Are they calling each other strange when they call each other queer? No. They've made the words part of their identity and come out stronger for it.

Nothing has been reclaimed. As soon as someone uses it as a pejorative, that house of cards is going to collapse. If these words could be reclaimed, no one would talk about their usage, and everyone would be free to use them.

I find most white people find the word Honkey to be humorous, but that is because most of you have not been on the receiving end of hearing it spoken with anger. Nothing is going to tame these words, and they will still have their power 100 years from now.

People are going to do what they want, but that does not mean they are doing themselves anygood.
posted by thirteen at 8:42 AM on August 17, 2003


Colorism?

There is such a thing, independent of racism. But it's a similar dynamic. It happens in a lot of ethnic groups. My mother is a light-skinned red haired Northern Italian, but I have cousins who are shades darker than a lot oflight skinned African-Americans, and he would take crap in school in Italy for it. I've heard similar stories from a lot of hispanics and from african-americans who take crap even with in their own families.

The tendency to divide people into hostile tribes based on miniscule difference knows no bounds.

I find most white people find the word Honkey to be humorous, but that is because most of you have not been on the receiving end of hearing it spoken with anger

But "white boy" and "white trash" usually aren't and I've heard used to provoke people into anger. It's all in how ya say it.
posted by jonmc at 8:46 AM on August 17, 2003


Nothing has been reclaimed. As soon as someone uses it as a pejorative, that house of cards is going to collapse. If these words could be reclaimed, no one would talk about their usage, and everyone would be free to use them.

right, because it's the intent, not the sign itself, that is offensive. If the majority of society considers something negative, then at least some words which refer to that thing will take on negative connotations. People don't need to use conventionally negative words to get across what they mean ('gay' is etymologically a pretty positive word, to start with, but has become casually negative; 'homosexual' seems pretty neutral but could be used as a negative term if delivered with a certain attitude or tone) but the existence of those words carries the historic allegiance of entire societies to the viewpoint the speaker is espousing. 'Faggot' has negative connotations because much of society agreed that negative connotations and the descriptive component of the word ('gay male') belonged together in one term.

History can't be erased, so these words still carry power. On the other hand, over time, history's strength fades, so eventually these words may become innocuous, or simply fall out of use, but it would have to be after the majority of the population truly got past the feelings these signs represent. In other words, as long as these words correspond to the intent of a significant percentage of a population, they can't be neutralized by top-down redefinition. Language has to evolve with the culture itself.
posted by mdn at 9:05 AM on August 17, 2003


"But he's black on the wrong half!"

/ST geek
posted by DBAPaul at 9:25 AM on August 17, 2003


jpoulos: I don't know... I've never called my best friends assholes unless I actually thought they were behaving like assholes.

In any case, I know most people who say they do that like to say they're joking. I'd say that's a reflection of respect, really—more about yourself than about the person you say it to. The guys at my office poke around like that all the time, trying to be funny I suppose, but they're the ones I think actually hate being there. They express a lot of anger about their work, or their clients, or their co-workers when you get to chat one-on-one with them.

Language is about what you think and what to you want to express to others... whether it's "queer" or "nigger," why would you want to reclaim those words?
posted by teradome at 9:44 AM on August 17, 2003


Jackie Chan: Wassup, my nigga?

Bartender: What did you just say?!

Jackie Chan (empahtically): Was-sup my nig-ga?

Bartender (goes berserk):

Rush Hour
posted by bwg at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2003


In other words, as long as these words correspond to the intent of a significant percentage of a population, they can't be neutralized by top-down redefinition. Language has to evolve with the culture itself.
I usually argue that effect is more important than intent, but I very much agree with your post. The continued use of "queer" is keeping it alive, and thus still potent. "Queer" and "shirtlifter" mean the same thing, and are similarly odd things to call someone. One has fallen out of favor, and the other has become a definition understood by all. I think it would be better not to be partially defined by a word meant to insult me (speaking generally, as I am not a pillowbiter myself).
posted by thirteen at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2003


Already I regret the pillowbiter joke.
posted by thirteen at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2003


A few years back, Circuit City opened a new store near our home in Detroit. My husband got a job there selling computers in the electronics department. When he first hired in, the store was about 25 percent white and 75 percent black, personnel-wise. After one year, there were only three white employees in the entire store. My husband's new supervisor was a black man transferred from another store, who constantly called my husband "boy" and often asked him race-baiting questions ("How does a white boy like working for a ::N-word::?). This supervisor would then challenge my hub to complain to anyone, because no one would listen to his white (posterior). My husband stayed there another year because he had developed a solid customer base and was making good money there. But one day the store manager (a black man) took him aside and was frank with him - he told my husband that even though he was an excellent employee, with a perfect attendance record, he could never be promoted at that store because he was white. He was very apologetic about the situation, but he said his hands were tied.

Probably not directly related, but the FPP reminded me of that whole scenario.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:44 AM on August 17, 2003


Oriole Adams, you and your husband are fools for not cleverly audio taping the manager and filing a gigantic lawsuit.
posted by pemulis at 10:57 AM on August 17, 2003


Come on, where are you going to get audio gear in a place like that?
posted by NortonDC at 12:56 PM on August 17, 2003 [1 favorite]


"fool" is too harsh, but yeah, that would have been a nice retirement package for you & the husband. I only wish someone would oppress me!
posted by jonson at 1:16 PM on August 17, 2003


put a sock in it, jonson!
posted by mcsweetie at 1:35 PM on August 17, 2003


Yeah, as NortonDC hinted; he allegedly worked in a Circuit City- not like he couldn't have taped the conversations, even a couple of which would have been enough. That two whole years passed without anything like that happened makes me think the story is untrue. Sorry, Oriole- I don't buy it.
posted by hincandenza at 1:40 PM on August 17, 2003


It takes more than equipment - you have to be the type of person who would actually tape a conversation for later legal use. I'm not that type of person, and Oriole's husband probably wasn't either; it's real easy to say after the fact that he should have taped it, but I don't think most people are that cynical.
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:17 PM on August 17, 2003


It's true - most people don't have an eye to the main chance in circumstances like that. They just want to be treated decently.
posted by orange swan at 3:24 PM on August 17, 2003


But wait a minute: since black males make it a point to call each other "nigger", how can you tell self-deprecating camaraderie from self-loathing colorism?



Huh, we do?

But anyway, the suit dosn't say that he was called a "nigger" it says he was called a "tar baby" and a "black monkey."

There's a diffrence. Jews call eachother "Jews" but not "kikes"
posted by delmoi at 3:32 PM on August 17, 2003


It takes more than equipment - you have to be the type of person who would actually tape a conversation for later legal use. I'm not that type of person, and Oriole's husband probably wasn't either; it's real easy to say after the fact that he should have taped it, but I don't think most people are that cynical.

Well, even if he didn't tape it, he could still make the claim, and perhaps settle. The guy probably had friends there who might have backed him up. The dude in the linked story only made the claim (no taping) and got $40k

There's no reason not to be litigious with assholes who deserve it.
posted by delmoi at 3:56 PM on August 17, 2003


The military has a great "anti-asshole" device. It's called a "MFR" (Memorandum For Record)--essentially creating a paper trail. Whenever someone starts doing something clearly wrong, you start taking notes, in a memo book, dated and timed. If it was really bad, you just keep taking notes, every time you talk to them, even on the phone, thereafter.
Even the utter arrogant imbecile gets real timid when that notebook comes out. It's your property, so he can't confiscate it. And usually they're too stupid to develop a counter-paper trail with the idea of firing you.

"How do you spell 'Nigger', sir? Is that with an "-r" or an "-ah?"

He can't complain about it, or even mention it, to his superiors; and he knows, or suspects, what it is going to be used for. You can even write down his ordering you to stop writing--which scares the piss out of him when you don't. The tables are turned.
posted by kablam at 4:24 PM on August 17, 2003


how do you spell "euthanasia", kablam?
posted by quonsar at 5:13 PM on August 17, 2003


While people are busy discussing nigger VS nigga, why has no one bothered to address the definition of 'tar baby'?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:20 PM on August 17, 2003


how do you spell "euthanasia", kablam?

Do you mean "euthenasia" or "euthenasier"?
posted by RylandDotNet at 5:30 PM on August 17, 2003


rough ashlar: a bit of googling turned up this page. Seems likely it was a derogatory term for a dark-skinned black person.
posted by RylandDotNet at 5:37 PM on August 17, 2003


Taping the conversations would've been all well and good, but litigation takes money, which we didn't have in abundance at the time. Plus, this was/is Detroit, where, in 1991, Jo Ann Was was caught on videotape at the Freedom Festival Fireworks being beat up and stomped on by a crowd of black people, and her attackers were acquitted, because the defense found a witness who said she once heard Ms Was use the "N" word at work. (This is just one example of the climate at the time; I could list many other examples if necessary.) My husband is originally from Georgia, no doubt they could've easily manipulated his good ol' boy Southern upbringing into a "he asked for it" ruling.
posted by Oriole Adams at 5:52 PM on August 17, 2003


RylandDotNet - thank you for the link, but when it comes to word use I visit www.onelook.com and type in said word.

When I had a dispute over my useage "This proposed development idea is a tar baby." I could not find any reference to "a derog. term for a Black (U.S.) or a Maori (N.Z.)."
posted by rough ashlar at 11:43 PM on August 17, 2003


Wow, this thread is a train wreck.

The word nigga, is slang, possibly ebonics? Which puts it out of the realm of caucasions, which only leaves the other variant. So why even talk about it.

It has been stated that racial bigotry, even when done by one of the same race, is exactly that. Bigotry.
The manager should be fired, and the case should be resolved and closed.

As for Oriole's husband. I would have taped it, and gone to Circuit City HQ, wherever that may be. I would have set up an appt with the HR folks, and let my lawyer play the tape for them, and negotiate the settlement.

Here's hoping your situation (and your husbands) is very different, and vastly imprioved today Oriole.
posted by a3matrix at 8:06 AM on August 18, 2003


This is harassment of an employee by a manager, and nobody should have to put up with it. Enough said. It became a racial case because of the terms used to harass this particular employee. If the manager had commented on his appearance or relationships it would have been a sexual harassment case.

It's a lot more likely that the offender will have a harsher penalty if the charge is more serious, and I believe that harassment based on race is a heaver charge than simple harassment.

When my friend calls me a dumbass, he's either being funny or I've done something stupid. When my boss calls me an dumbass and there's no obvious context, it's harassment.

As for the term "tar baby," haven't any of you heard of Brer Rabbit?
posted by mikeh at 8:52 AM on August 18, 2003


I don't use "nigger" or "nigga", either when referrring to myself or my black friends. I dislike it when my white friends refer to white folks as "white trash" and make stupid jokes about "trailer parks". It's demeaning, a put down and yet another stupid example of how The Man (I jest) tries to keep us down!
As for this case, didn't y'all see Spike Lee's "School Daze?"
I'm sure you recall Harry Belafonte calling Colin Powell a "house nigger?"
The spectre of Willie Lynch lives on.
posted by black8 at 10:49 AM on August 18, 2003


« Older Coral Reefs Doomed...  |  Sweden has a referendum coming... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments