Paul R. Lehman, Bigotry and discrimination still a part of everyday life in America

April 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, desegregation, discrimination lawsuit, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, Michael Myers, Prejudice, President Obama, skin color, socioeconomics, The Oklahoman, whites | Leave a comment
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We sometimes get complacent these days when thinking that ethnic discrimination is disappearing from society. The fact that some positive changes have been made regarding the recognition of diversity in our society does not mean that prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry have been eliminated. Far from it. According to recent reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate group membership has increased since the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. So, rather than eliminating the problems, they are on the increase. However, unlike the obvious situation of European Americans discriminating against African Americans, the instances of European American discriminating against other European Americans with ties to ethnic Americans have increased or become more noticeable.
A recent headline in The Oklahoman read “Mixed-race marriage at center of discrimination lawsuit.”(3/30/13) The article, written by Tim Willert, began with the statement: “A white man who is married to a black woman is suing his former employer for racial discrimination and retaliation.” Why would a European American sue his European American employer simply because he is married to an ethnic American woman? One reason has to do with the mindset of some of the people involved who cannot accept people who do not look like them as valued members of society. In bringing the lawsuit, Michael Myers noted that “he was fired by M-D Building Products of Oklahoma City because he complained about a co-worker’s racist remarks.” In effect, rather than action taken by the company against the co-worker for his racist remarks, Myers was fired.
Myers said he considered his workplace to be a hostile environment for over a four month period: “Myers claims in the filing the co-worker subjected him to ‘racial slurs and offensive racial remarks regarding African Americans approximately every one to two days’ after Myers disclosed to him and another co-worker that his wife was black.” Myers stated further that “The co-worker ‘frequently and regularly’ used derogatory words to refer to African-Americans, Mexicans and Asians.” According to Myers, he was never given a reason for his termination or told of any problems associated with his job performance.
What Myers experienced was something that African Americans have lived with all their lives—ethnic prejudice and bigotry. The co-worker apparently still believes he lives in a pre-Civil Rights time. Like many European Americans he sees America as belonging to European Americans and thinks that having a light skin complexion given him the right and privilege to denigrate non-European Americans. When bigots are in the company of European Americans they take the liberty of using ethnic slurs and other derogatory remarks without fear of repercussions because they believe no European American will challenge them. If ethnic Americans are present when these remarks or slurs are made, the bigot feels no obligation to conceal his prejudice. His actions, he believes, go to underscore his sense of privilege and the arrogance of pride. The co-worker actions serve to inform Myers of his lack of respect for him and his African American wife. His bigotry is like the old bone a dog bits on that does nothing but produces saliva, but the dog still bites on it because it feel good in his mouth even though it provides no nutritional value.
Too often Americans think that the kind of bigotry Myers experienced is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, bigotry in America is still alive and well. Part of the problem of bigotry comes from society’s unwillingness to confront it. The fact that the headlines uses the term “Mixed-race” underscores the media part in keeping the readers in the past. Certainly the media know that science has debunked to concept of multiple biological races, so why do they continue to use the out-dated terms? Bigots in America have no reason to change the way they think, talk, and act if their biased actions do not come with a cost. If they tell an ethnic joke in mixed company, chances are no one will complain, and if someone does complain, he or she will be made to look like the “goodie two shoes.”
As a society we need to step up and recognize that change will not simply happen on its own, we have to be the agents of that change. For example, the article stated that “On one occasion, about two weeks after Myers was hired, the co-worker allegedly said, ‘I ain’t trying to be racist, but them black guys and Mexicans are lazy.’” The co-worker knew that his comments were not socially accepted before he spoke them, that is why he made the statement about not being racist before he made the statement. Someone should have told him that he, indeed, is not racist, but he is bigoted. The co-worker needed to be informed that his idea of belonging to a so-called white race is no longer valid and acceptable in our society.
One of the additional problems Myers face during his situation on his job was the attitude of his supervisor or employer. Rather than addressing the problem created by the co-workers bigotry, the employer fired Myers. Fortunately, today, because of Civil Rights laws, Myers has the right to challenge his termination in court. If the court decides in Myers’ favor, this discussion will send a message, we hope, to other employers about protecting the rights of their employees in hostile and biased environments. Most often in cases like Myers, the burden of proof falls to the victim. He has to provide enough evidence to win over the judge or jury. As Americans, we are all entitled to pursue our life, liberty, and happiness without prejudice. That includes a workplace free of ethnic hostilities.

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