Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Once again proving, we're in a post-racial America

Maybe his supervisor was just trying to tell him how young he looks.

Last month, for the third time and in the face of a 2006 rebuke from the United States Supreme Court, the federal appeals court in Atlanta said there were no racial overtones when a white supervisor called an adult black man “boy.”

“The usages were conversational,” the majority explained, repeating what it had told the trial court after the Supreme Court ruled, and “nonracial in context.” Even if “somehow construed as racial,” the unsigned 2-to-1 decision went on, “the comments were ambiguous stray remarks” that were not proof of employment discrimination.

Two Alabama juries had seen things differently.

They had heard testimony from another black Tyson worker, Anthony Ash, who recalled sitting in the cafeteria at lunchtime when the plant’s manager said, “Boy, you better get going.” Mr. Ash said the manager’s tone was “mean and derogatory.”

Mr. Ash’s wife was there. “He’s not a boy,” Pam Ash shot back, according to her husband. “He’s a man.”

Ms. Ash testified that the manager, Tom Hatley, “just looked at me with a smirk on his face like it was funny.”

Mr. Ash explained to the jury why the remark stung.

“You know,” he said, “being in the South, and everybody know being in the South, a white man says ‘boy’ to a black man, that’s an offensive word.”

Mr. Hithon testified that Mr. Hatley had once summoned him by calling out, “Hey, boy.”

Mr. Hatley denied using the term and said he had good reasons for hiring the two white managers that had nothing to do with race.

In 2002, the first jury awarded Mr. Hithon more than $1 million, but a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in 2005 ordered the case retried. In the process, it made an interesting distinction.

“The use of ‘boy’ when modified by a racial classification like ‘black’ or ‘white’ is evidence of discriminatory intent,” the panel said. But “the use of ‘boy’ alone is not evidence of discrimination.”

Even the Roberts Court wasn't buying that one and sent it back.

The Supreme Court unanimously reversed that decision, suggesting that the real world was the right modifier. “The speaker’s meaning may depend on various factors including context, inflection, tone of voice, local custom and historical usage,” the justices said in an unsigned opinion.

And still, the Appeals court overturned the jury verdict awarding the man $1 million, twice.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com Site Meter