Private Acts of Discrimination – Revisited

– L. Arthalia Cravin

lcravinA couple of months ago I posted a column on this website entitled, “Should Private Acts of Discrimination be Legal?” In that column I gave a few examples of what I felt were acts of racial discrimination by private individuals working at small businesses. This past week a black nurse in Michigan filed a lawsuit against the hospital where she works for enforcing a newborn father’s request that “no black nurses touch my newborn.” It appears from several accounts that the father had a swastika tattooed on his arm. A range of comments were posted saying that patients in hospitals should be able to request the type of caregivers they want, such as female patients requesting female nurses, especially for private baths. Is this the same?

This past week also saw the headlines of the airline passenger who told a mother to shut up her son, alleged using some type of racial slur, and then slapping the baby. This executive immediately lost his job. But what if he had not committed an alleged assault, but instead told the mother to shut that “biracial kid” up? Would this be okay? When do private feelings of racial animus cross the line? What about an Amarillo ISD high school history teacher who refused to put a picture of President Obama on her wall of presidents? Her classroom has pictures of all the presidents starting with Washington, but ending with George “Dubwa” Bush. Three years in to President Obama’s presidency she still refused to put his picture on her wall. Is this okay? What about this. A Texas Panhandle oil drilling operation has black truck drivers. One white employee recently announced that he would not do a certain type of work because it was “N” work. The same employee had also openly expressed his dislike for working on trucks driven by black drivers. Is this okay? Is it okay for a white worker to allow his racial animus to sabotage a vehicle that will be driven on public highways? What about the recent stop and frisk of Forest Whitaker, the black actor, in a New York deli for alleged shoplifting. The employee didn’t find anything. Is this another case of “shopping while black” and being constantly monitored? There’s more.

What about private acts of discrimination in workplaces where white co-workers walk past black co-workers and mumble racial slurs about the President and First Lady? What about white supervisors whose private racial animus cause them to purposely single out black workers for harsh treatment? What about all the African Americans who were purposely given high rate, bad terms, subprime loans just because they were black—even though whites with worse credit were given more favorable loans? What about the employees and their supervisors who purposely participated in this type of discrimination for their own private monetary gain? What about a jury in East Texas that gave a first-time offender black man 99 years in prison for an assault and then announced in open court, that they had found a way to get back at the man’s father. The jury then gave each other high fives. What about the prosecutor who filed the “burglary of a habitation” charge because of the severe sentence of a possible 99 years, that he got.

During Black History Month, organizations of every stripe want to “celebrate” or at least acknowledge the contributions of African Americans to American history. But they do so only “up to point” in history. Why must we always go back to slavery—to Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad to find significant black contributions? Why should Black History Month not focus on all the acts of racism that have prevented or otherwise thwarted more contributions by African Americans? Since the election of President Obama the term “post racial” has been tossed about as if his election either started something or ended something in the area of race discrimination. What we learned during the last presidential campaign is that American racism is alive and well, with almost 80 percent of the “solid south” voting for Mitt Romney.

What is the reality of private acts of race discrimination that no one wants to talk about? Why is this conduct wrong on any level? What if the white worker whose racial animus would cause him to tamper with a vehicle driven by a black worker, resulted in that vehicle barreling uncontrollably into a bus filled with mostly white students? Who’s really to blame for the accident, injuries, and death that will no doubt result? While black shoppers are “watched like a hawk” in stores who’s watching white “entrusted” managers, and accountants, who embezzle and steal millions? Who was watching Bernie Madoff? Who suffers in a classroom when a white teacher decides to impose her rabid racism on a classroom of innocent students? Who suffers in the long run by this type of conduct? Who benefits from private acts of race discrimination in employment when that very discrimination can ultimately result in a collective society paying the bill in the form of a range of state and federal subsidies to replace lost income? Don’t we all pay in the long run for all private acts of discrimination?

Copyright 2013 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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