Last week, a federal jury in Manhattan held the use of the N-word targeted at an African-American was as much deplorable when used by an African-American as it is when used by people of other races or skin color. This Tuesday, the jury decided on punitive damages in the case, while last week they awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages.
The instant case was brought by a black employment agency worker against Rob Carmona and his employment agency in East Harlem. Carmona tried to argue that he had used the N-word as a culturally acceptable term of endearment.
But Brandi Johnson, the victim didn’t find it endearing and argued that the hurt didn’t lessen just because the man who used the word was another African-American.
Johnson had taped the remarks, after she complained of verbal abuse, but her complaints were disregarded.
She testified to the court: “I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed.”
Johnson’s attorney, Marjory M. Sharpe told the jurors : When you use the word nigger to an African-American, no matter how many alternative definitions that you may try to substitute with the word nigger, 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 …”
However, Carmona’s attorney argued that there could have been no intention of using the N-word as a racial slur, because Mr. Carmona himself was an African-American.
Carmona emphasized that he used the N-word to emphasize his close bonds and love for Johnson, rather than to create barriers or degrade her.
Johnson’s attorney said the “environment” at the agency then was one of “tough love” and the agency needed to be reminded that such behavior was illegal and intolerable.