Politics

Lawsuit against GM cites nooses, ‘whites only’ signs, and a culture of racism and violence

David Brooks and 6 other black employees are suing GM for racial harassment and bullying.
David Brooks, a former supervisor at the GM Toledo Powertrain plant, is suing the company for racial harassment and a hostile work environment.

Imagine fearing for your safety so much at work that you resort to praying each day that God will protect you before you enter the workplace. This is what Marcus Boyd did each day he worked as a supervisor for GM. Boyd, his colleague Derrick Brooks, and other employees of color were subjected to a hostile workplace at the Toledo Powertrain plant in Ohio that included racial slurs, harassment, and even nooses hanging in the areas where they worked. 

CNN reports on the lawsuit filed against GM on behalf of eight workers who claim that management neglected to address racial harassment at the powertrain plant. The specific examples cited by the workers are deeply upsetting and jarring. In a way, it feels shocking to think that these kinds of things happened in 2018. But with the state of the country what it is, and knowing how Donald Trump has, not reinvented, but certainly emboldened more blatant racism, it isn’t entirely surprising. 

The use of the N-word was a frequent occurrence at the plant. And sometimes white employees tried to disguise their insults, using code to refer to the black employees and other employees of color.

Boyd and other workers of color learned there was a coded language to talk about them, according to the lawsuit. White employees kept calling them “Dan.” They thought some people didn’t respect them enough to learn their names. But other colleagues told them it was a slur, an acronym for “dumb ass nigger.”

There were also repeated threats of violence, including comments to Boyd such as “Back in the day, you would have been buried with a shovel,” and a more direct confrontation with a supervisee who raised a metal clutch assembly at Boyd as if to hit him. Yet when Boyd and others reported the abuse, they were told by leadership to handle the situations themselves. 

Then there were the five nooses that showed up on the plant floor, gun magazines anonymously but strategically placed on Brooks’ desk, and the appearance of graffiti that read “whites only” in the bathroom. All of these incidents were reported to GM. But the targeted employees say that the company only removed the nooses and failed to deal with the hate. In their lawsuit, they claim that the company allowed for an “underlying atmosphere of violent racial hate and bullying.”


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