A bleak recounting of harassment endured by African-Americans in the workplace over the last two decades.
In this debut nonfiction book, Rodney leads readers through several lawsuits filed in the 1990s and 2000s regarding egregious examples of racially motivated workplace harassment. Quoting heavily from depositions and trial records, Rodney, himself an African-American, presents one environment after another in which workers were subjected to racial slurs, hazing, and threatened and actual violence that went unchecked by supervisors and made their jobs unpleasant and often dangerous. In many cases, trial judges expressed skepticism toward plaintiffs, concluded that the harassment did not constitute a hostile work environment, or found that the employer was not responsible for the results, though Rodney takes note of the several cases in which the victims successfully appealed. Though the vivid details drawn from witness testimonies help bring immediacy to the stories, the narrative suffers from a tendency to overuse ellipses when quoting (“Compensatory damages ‘…are awarded...for plaintiff injuries...as a result of...actions of the defendant e.g., lost wages...mental anguish...pain and suffering...’ ”) as well as frequently unclear prose: “My apprehension toward the ‘nexus between the defendants and the trier of facts’ expressed in the introduction of this book are not appropriate regarding Judge Kobayashi’s management of this case.” Likewise, the decisions to omit a complete bibliography and cite such materials as “Spriggs brief” and “Hilton Memorandum” make it difficult to track down the original sources. The book concludes with a series of guidelines for African-Americans, white allies, and potentially hostile individuals, as well as public policy recommendations designed to improve the regulatory and judicial responses to workplace harassment, which would ideally result in a system more responsive to human needs. While drawing a detailed portrait of a system that does not currently have an adequate response to egregious violations of basic decency, Rodney reminds readers that such harassment is not merely a series of isolated incidents or confined to the reaches of history.
A compelling though unpolished analysis of racially motivated workplace harassment and its potential remedies.