Judge: "N-word" cannot be term of endearment

A federal court upheld a black employee's claim for damages after the racial epithet was used by black employer

By Natasha Lennard

Published September 3, 2013 4:31PM (EDT)


A federal judge has upheld a black employees compensation claim over the fraught issue of the use of the "N-word" between black individuals. According to court filings, Brandi Johnson, 38, who worked for Harlem-based employment agency Strive found her employers use of the "N-word" towards her from her black employer (Johnson is also black) both hurtful and degrading.

The judge rejected the argument from Strive founder Rob Carmona that the racial epithet could be used as a term of love and endearment. Last week, Johnson was awarded $250,000 by jury in compensatory damages following what CBS New York described as "an N-word-laced rant by her black boss."

Via CBS:

Johnson, who taped the March 2012 remarks after her complaints about his verbal abuse were disregarded, said she fled to the restroom and cried for 45 minutes.

“I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed,” Johnson testified.

In closing arguments, Johnson’s attorney Marjorie M. Sharpe said Carmona’s use of the word was intended to offend “and any evidence that defendants put forth to the contrary is simply ridiculous.”

“When you use the word n****r to an African-American, no matter how many alternative definitions that you may try to substitute with the word n****r, that is no different than calling a Hispanic by the worst possible word you can call a Hispanic, calling a homosexual male the worst possible word that you can call a homosexual male,” Sharpe told jurors.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Compensation Employment N-word Race Racial Slur Racism