It got so bad, someone even hung a noose. Five of them, actually.
This is one of the shocking allegations in a new suit filed by eight black supervisors from GM’s Toledo Powertrain plant in Ohio. They were told to by their subordinates to “go back to Africa,” and called “monkey” and “boy.” Bathrooms were declared “whites only.” Threats involving the Klan were invoked. White workers were inked with hate symbols.
The white workers called their black supervisors “Dan”—which the plaintiffs initally thought was just disrespect. Turns out, it was an acronym for “dumb ass nigger.”
Simple exchanges like vacation day negotiations, found angry white workers spinning into rages. There were rumors of planned ambushes and gun violence. Then the nooses started coming.
Upper management did nothing, they say.
According to this report from CNN, the Toledo Powertrain plant is well known to Ohio officials. Other employees complained to the police about nooses and gun threats, and an investigation by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission found strong evidence that despite cursory efforts at training, GM was allowing a racially hostile workplace environment.
One former union president told the commission about a meeting to address the racist incidents where a white supervisor said the nooses weren’t a big deal and that “there was never a black person who was lynched that didn’t deserve it.”
GM declined CNN’s request for an interview but did issue a statement explaining that they closed the plant for a day to have training for every shift after the noose complaint. “We treat any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency, and are committed to providing an environment that is safe, open and inclusive.” (Fortune has reached out for additional comment and will update this story accordingly.)
But Dennis Earl, who works at the plant and was elected UAW local president in 2017, told CNN that nope, there’s no racism anymore. “Do I believe people are a little too sensitive these days? Absolutely,” he said. “What passed 20 years ago doesn’t pass today.”
“You can’t say the things you used to say off the cuff. It doesn’t excuse it, but it’s not racially motivated statements,” he added. “It’s just bad judgment.”
It’s the bad judgment that has extended the caste system of Jim Crow into the workplace, the financial system, the criminal justice system and beyond.
It’s the bad judgment that has enabled a black wealth gap so profound that black men, like GM plaintiff Derrick Brooks, a former Marine with eight kids, had to do some terrifying math before he finally decided to flee the six-figure job he earned.
“How rough and tough can you be when you got 11 to 12 people who want to put a noose around your neck and hang you ’til you’re dead?” Brooks told CNN.
The Atlantic’s Vann Newkirk makes an optimistic case that the wealth gap—the inevitable outcome of decades of unwelcoming workplaces, discriminatory lending, and other enduring racist practices, might become a core issue in the 2020 presidential race.
For one thing, Senator Elizabeth Warren explicitly mentioned how people of color were unable to reach middle-class status in her opening bid.
“With surging black and Latino voting power offering new pathways to victory in 2020, candidates might feel more compelled than in past races to offer bold strategies to fix the enduring economic legacy of white supremacy,” he notes.
I’d like that to be true. In the meantime, we will still be arguing about whether it’s racism or just bad manners.
Vox’s Jane Coaston nails it.
“The way we talk about race and racism is wrong,” she writes in a must-read analysis on why Iowa Rep. Steve King is finally being held accountable. “In short, we think of ‘racist’ as an insult rather than as an adjective. And we have narrowed down the concept of racism to an almost ludicrous extent, in effect often excusing real racism.”
|Citigroup publishes their gender-compensation numbers|
|They are the first finance company to do so, which is laudable. And, they put it all out there: On average, women earn 29% less than men, and people of color earn 7% less than their white counterparts. The numbers are part of a dismal picture: Men dominate the top ranks of leadership and the bank has lost black executives every year for the past eight years.|
|How do you solve a problem like Maria?|
|With an incredibly talented unknown 17-year-old who is actually, wait for it, Latina, that’s how. High school student Rachel Zengler won the role of Maria in Steven Spielberg’s reboot of West Side Story after submitting videos of herself singing as part of an open call. It will be her film debut. “As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.” Come to find out, all the Latino characters are being played by Latinx people. “When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors. I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” said Spielberg. Click through to catch her audition tapes, they will make your day.|
|The University of North Carolina’s chancellor steps down|
|It’s been a tough road for the country’s oldest public university of late, and the tension between administration officials has tumbled into the news more than any institution would like. Carol L. Folt, the University’s chancellor, announced her intention to step down at the end of the academic year, and her final act was to remove the pedestal and commemorative plaque that was once the longtime home to Silent Sam, a controversial Confederate statue that was torn down by protestors last August. It was a decision fraught with drama. Update: After expressing dismay for learning about Holt’s resignation only after the news became public, the Board of Governors fast-tracked her end date to January 31.|
|Chronicle of Higher Education|
The Woke Leader
|A new museum in Senegal aims to bring Africa’s treasures back home|
|Here’s a stat that took my breath away: Up to 95% of the artifacts that represent the cultural heritage and history of many parts of Africa are held in museums outside of the continent. France alone holds 900,000 objects from Sub-Saharan Africa. That’s what makes Senegal’s new Museum of Black Civilizations, which is amassing an extraordinary collection—on loan—so astonishing. In addition to creating a central repository for African culture, it is also sparking a long overdue conversation about who really owns the objects that were looted during the colonial era.|
|New York Times|
|Workers need different benefits|
|This is a story about benefits and value, and what it means to be a worker today. According to this study from Harvard Business School, companies are missing the big picture. Benefits that don’t meet the needs of workers, or that they can’t easily use, are costing more than companies understand. For example, three-quarters of employees surveyed said they provide some sort of care duty for a family member, which impacts their work and peace of mind. “By not offering benefits that employees actually want—and by not encouraging employees to use the benefits they do offer—companies incur millions of dollars of hidden costs due to employee turnover, loss of institutional knowledge, and temporary hiring,” say report authors Joseph B. Fuller and Manjari Raman.|
|A Sikh motorcycle gang finds faith and fellowship on the road|
|Sikhism is a quiet and largely unfamiliar faith, despite being the fifth largest religion in the world. Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims, particularly due to the Sikh edict to “never be without the turban, wear it always.” A minority community the world over, they’ve been increasingly targeted in hate crimes since the attacks on September 11. It’s part of what makes this small group so poignant. The Sikh Motorcycle Club was founded by five New Jersey men—now, nearly 30 ride regularly. They show no swagger displayed by outlaw motorcycle gangs of American legend, instead they feel affirmed by proximity to others who share the same faith and minority status. “The bikers ride together in a single line, with more experienced riders in front and at the tail end. These riders haven’t taken the mufflers off their engines; they don’t cut in front of cars; they don’t claim the road. They just ride.”|