Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The EEOC and racial harassment: calling a spade a s---e

The EEOC has published a website detailing 42 racial harassment cases it has litigated over the past three years. The purpose of the website, I think, is to bring awareness to the agency’s efforts to combat this insidious form of discrimination. Sexual harassment cases often get the headlines, but racial harassment is just as damaging, if not more so, to its victims. By raising awareness of the fact that racial harassment is just as illegal as its more well-known cousin, the EEOC can increase the number of charges filed, helping to bring an end to this awful antebellum remnant.

The EEOC’s micro-site discusses racist workplace practices such as nooses, racially offensive comments such as “coon,” “gorilla,” and “porch monkey,” and jokes, cartoons and images that denigrate African-Americans.

What I find curious, though, is that while the agency rightfully has no problem recounting any of these allegations, it apparently has a huge problem republishing the word “nigger.” While several of the reported cases allege the use of that word, the word itself does not appear anywhere in the EEOC’s microsite. Instead, the agency uses shorthand such as “n----r” or “N-word.” Of course, we all know what these abbreviations mean. When reading, no one says “n-hyphen-hyphen-hyphen-hyphen-r” in their heads; you repeat the word, unabbreviated, in all of its ugliness.

Employment law can be dirty, and no cases are dirtier than harassment cases. Sexual harassment cases can involve words such as “bitch” and “cunt.” Sexual orientation harassment cases can involve words such as “fag.” And, racial harassment cases can involve words like “nigger.” Repeating the words in the context of the litigation neither facilitates nor perpetrates their hatred. In fact, the converse is true. Exposing the words for what they are is the most effective means to eliminate them from our workplaces. No problem was ever solved by sweeping it under the rug, and the EEOC’s politically-correct blinders are not helping rid America’s workplaces of this hateful word.