Can racial slurs be erased by hiring a black worker?

When black Stockroom Attendant Anita Shaw complained to Maintenance Supervisor Ben Arnold that Bill Jones, his assistant, was guilty of racist statements, Arnold investigated.

09/01/1998


When black Stockroom Attendant Anita Shaw complained to Maintenance Supervisor Ben Arnold that Bill Jones, his assistant, was guilty of racist statements, Arnold investigated. He learned from three different employees that, not only was Shaw's charge true, but that his racial bias also prejudiced him against blacks in making work assignments. Whites got the easier and more desirable jobs; if there was a dirty and unpleasant task it usually went to a black worker.

Jones got wind of Arnold's probe into Shaw's charge and worried that he might be fired or otherwise disciplined. He tried to figure how he could counter the bias which was sure to be disclosed. An idea struck him. An ad for a maintenance control clerk had been running for two days. Department policy called for his boss to approve all hirings. But if he recommended a black for the job it would prove he wasn't prejudiced. Unfortunately, no black candidates had answered the ad.

Jones' luck changed the next day. Ruth Camus, a black woman in her 30s, applied for the job. She could have been better qualified, but Jones had more important concerns. After a brief interview, he recommended her for the job. Even if Arnold turned her down, his point would be made.

Jones dropped the recommendation on Arnold's desk.

Arnold ignored it. "Got a minute, Bill?"

Jones knew what was coming. He accompanied Arnold to an unoccupied office. Confronting him with the evidence, Arnold wanted to know what he had to say for himself. Jones denied the racist charge.

"The evidence says otherwise."

"It's not true. It's concocted and contrived. If I was a racist, do you think that would I recommend a black woman for that storekeeper job?"

"When was that?"

"A few minutes ago. It's on your desk."

Question : What do you think? Will Jones' recommendation get him off the hook?

A rnold's decision: The supervisor reviewed the black woman's application and compared it with others. He summoned Jones to his desk.

"I'm turning down this application."

Jones shrugged. "That's your decision, boss."

"I'm turning you down as well. I've been on the verge of doing so for weeks. This all too transparent tactic convinces me you're not only a bigot, you're an oily customer as well. You're fired, Bill. You'll get your check in the mail."





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