racial discrimination

  • October 21, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Timothy Williams writes that “more than 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs—including some of the most prominent law enforcement officials in the country—are adding their clout to the movement to reduce the nation’s incarceration rate.”

    Garrett Epps at The Atlantic contends that the New York Police Department’s systematic surveillance of New York’s Muslim community between 2001 and 2011 was unconstitutional.

    In Talking Points Memo, Ben Railton celebrates the cultural, political and legal legacy of Walter Mondale.

    David W. Blight at The Atlantic explains why political victories of the Reconstruction era have yet to create an American society free from the racial prejudice that fueled slavery.

    In Democracy, Eric Liu explains why shared cultural knowledge is more important than ever. Take a look at the What Every American Should Know Project, which Liu runs, here.

  • May 20, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Gillian Laub at Salon takes a look at cotemporary racial segregation in the United States.

    At The Hill, Timothy Jost reports that Congressional Republicans are not prepared with any legislation should the Supreme Court rule against the Affordable Care Act.

    Lauren Sandler discusses at The New Republic how paid family leave is becoming a political reality as “voters have made it clear that our leaders must reconcile the competing responsibilities of work and family.”

    At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern explores how the Supreme Court’s ruling in San Francisco v. Sheehan avoided a question that could have justified greater police violence against the mentally ill.

    Daniel Fischer of Forbes explains the Supreme Court’s decision in Wynne v. Comptroller that held that a Maryland income-tax policy was unconstitutional. 

  • November 11, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Kerri L. Stone, Assistant Professor, Florida International University College of Law
    I am in the midst of writing an article about the hostility and skepticism with which the judiciary has treated employment discrimination plaintiffs, especially when it comes to the premature foreclosure of their cases through summary judgment. Thus, I was profoundly disappointed, but not surprised, when I read the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals's recently issued decision in Smith v. Fairview Ridges Hospital.

    The majority in this case affirmed a grant of summary judgment on, among others, plaintiff Sheila Smith's claim of a racially hostile work environment despite a string of incidents, comments, and affronts that appear to have been fraught with racial animus. These include a conversation at a potluck meal to which Smith had brought fried chicken; when one co-worker asked who brought it, another replied "Who else." They also include a picture of Buckwheat, a character from the 1920s short film series, "Our Gang," being affixed to a bulletin board in the workplace among childhood pictures of employees with the caption "Guess who this is;" Smith was the only African American employee whose childhood picture had not already been posted.

    During a subsequent confrontation with another co-worker, Smith had a chart grabbed from her hands as a co-worker exclaimed ‘[T]hese black aides don't know what they are doing." On more than one occasion, Smith also observed co-workers viewing material on workplace computers that she classified as racially offensive. On one occasion, she was invited to look at the contents of what they were viewing, and she saw t-shirts that said "Guns don't kill people, only angry minorities kill people;" and "How do you stop five ******* from raping a white girl? You throw them a basketball." On still another occasion, Smith overheard one coworker ask another (about Smith) "if she's unhappy here, why does she come back," and the other responded, "Just like a dog, you beat them and abuse them, they still come back. Just like any good runaway slave would." Smith reported all of these incidents, along with others, to her immediate supervisor, but in most cases, no corrective action was taken, and when it was, the offending employees were merely reminded that personal internet use in the workplace was inappropriate. Smith also proffered, among other evidence, the testimony of a co-worker, that she had overheard two other co-workers discussing Smith, and saying that she "needs to go back to the ghetto where she came from."

  • August 25, 2010
    For the second time a federal appeals court panel rejected jury awards in favor of African-American plaintiffs who alleged discrimination against the poultry company Tyson. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that a Tyson manager's use of the word "boy" to address a black man, John Hithon, did not amount to evidence of racial discrimination.

    Hithon denied a promotion at the Gadsden, Ala., poultry plant, argued that manager Tom Hatley had discriminated against him, citing, among other things, Hatley's derogatory usage of "boy." In 2002, Hithon and other employees of the plant lodged a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and a jury found in their favor awarding hundreds of thousands in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages. A federal magistrate judge invalidated the jury's verdict maintaining that racial discrimination was not proved, and in 2005 a panel of the Eleventh Circuit upheld that ruling. But the U.S. Supreme Court heard an appeal of the case and found that the use of the word boy could prove racial bias. "The speaker's meaning may depend on various factors including context, inflection, tone of voice, local custom and historical usage," the high court ruled in remanding the case to the Eleventh Circuit. The remand also produced another jury trial, which again found in favor of Hithon and the other black employee, Anthony Ash.

    But the Eleventh Circuit, in its recent ruling (pdf) in Ash v. Tyson Foods, Inc., refused to budge from its earlier decision, concluding that there was not new evidence to show the use of the word was discriminatory, Law.Com reported. But U.S. District Senior Judge David D. Dowd Jr., appointed to the bench by President Reagan, in a dissent said the jury verdicts should have been upheld.

    In a column for Daily Report, Stephen B. Bright, president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights, wrote that the latest decision is a troubling reminder of the need for diversity on the Eleventh Circuit.

    Bright wrote:

    These two white judges [referring to Eleventh Circuit Judges Edward E. Carnes and William H. Pryor, Jr., of the majority in Ash], residing in their judicial palaces as far away from the lives of ordinary people as one can get, purport to know more about what it means when a white overseer calls an African-American man ‘boy' than 24 Alabamians selected for two federal juries.


    This march back to Jim Crow would surely be more difficult if there were more people of color on the federal bench. About a quarter of the population of three states that make up the 11th Circuit is made up of African Americans and Hispanics. Yet there have been only two black judges on the 12-member 11th Circuit in its history, and they have served one at a time. There is only one active African-American federal judge in all of Georgia today, Judge W. Louis Sands in the Middle District. The Northern District of Georgia, which includes Atlanta and has three African Americans representing it in Congress, has no African American judges in active status at this time.