The Herald News out of Halifax has reported on a racial harassment case involving use of the term “lynching” in the context of a performance review of a black salesperson.
The sales manager at a Nova Scotia furniture store called a black sales associate in front of customers “Condoleezza Rice,” and told her her hair felt “like wool.” When he was about to give her a performance review, he told others managers present “to clear the room because ‘it’s time for a lynching.’”
A Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission board of inquiry found race discrimination and ordered the store to pay the sales associate $8,000 in general damages and 18 months back pay.
The sales associate told the board that “When you research the act, or the word ‘lynching,’ you see my ancestors, African-Americans, that were beaten, whipped, burned alive and then left to die hanging from a tree while white racists gather around celebrating.” The board, in turn, held that the lynching comment was no joke or ordinary reference to violence: “Lynching represents the murder of African-Americans on the basis of their racial identity. Lynching is widely known to be one of the means by which white southern slave owners exerted control over African-American slaves, who were treated as subhuman and as a commodity.”
In this regard, the board also noted “that the fact the comment arose in the context of a performance review underscores the economic and power differences between the managers and [the sales associate] who was dependent upon them for her continued employment.”
We’ve reported often on racial harassment cases, which frequently involve use of the “N-word” or nooses. These memes involving references to slavery and all of its racism and images of physical and social violence and control seem to permeate workplace racial harassment. This is the first such case which we have reported on which took place in Canada. Read some of the comments to the Herald article — very enlightening.