According to a Manhattan jury, the office is no place for the n-word, even among Black people. Brandi Johnson was awarded $280,000 after her boss, Rob Carmona (who identifies as Black and Puerto Rican) repeatedly used the word towards her and a coworker, in an angry rant.
Johnson recorded the entire harangue on her phone. Carmona had apparently compared her to a fellow employee, and she was looking to learn why. His response was peppered with the racial epithet.
“I’m not saying, using the term ‘n*gger’ derogatory, ’cause sometimes it’s good to know when to act like a n*gger. But y’all act like n*ggers all the time,” Carmona said.
When Johnson expressed that Carmona’s speech offended her, he replied with, “You can be offended, but it’s true.”
Listen to the full recording below.
Carmona founded STRIVE, a non-profit organization that works to find jobs for the disadvantaged, in 1984. Since then, the organization claims to have to have assisted over 50,000 people. STRIVE’s tagline reads, “Where attitude counts.” But Carmona’s attitude on his use of the n-word needs some adjusting.
The 61-year-old claims he comes from “a different time” and that he often used the word as a term of endearment. He maintains that the word has “multiple contexts” and that he was using the word toward Johnson out of love, to explain that she was “too emotional” and concerned with “the negative aspects of human nature.” She says she cried for 45 minutes after their meeting.
“It was extremely hurtful. I was extremely offended,” Johnson said.
Marjorie Sharpe, Johnson’s attorney, said the verdict solidified that the n-word, which she called “the most offensive word in the English language,” is not welcome in the workplace.
“People have tried to take the sting away from the word. The reality is that can’t happen,” Sharpe said.
The federal jury ordered STRIVE to pay Johnson $250,000 in a discrimination case, as well as $30,000 in punitive damages. Carmona will have to pay $25,000 to Johnson out of his own pocket.