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A federal jury decided that the use of the N-word is not an acceptable expression of love and endearment, but rather a hostile and discriminatory term, no matter what ethnicity the speaker is.
The case addressed the double standard that the word is a degrading slur when used by whites but is acceptable to be used freely by blacks. 38-year old Brandi Johnson filed the case against Rob Carmona and his agency STRIVE East Harlem after a “four-minute ni--er tirade” about inappropriate and unprofessional dress and behavior, according to the Associated Press.
Johnson addressed the verbal abuse during the trial, saying, “I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed.”
Johnson and her attorney claimed that the sole purpose of the word is to offend someone. "When you use the word ni--er to an African-American, no matter how many alternative definitions that you may try to substitute with the word ni--er, 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," attorney Marjorie M. Sharpe maintained during her closing statement.
The defense claimed that Carmona's rough background instilled a different meaning of the word in his mind. Carmona said that the word has “multiple contexts,” ranging from hate and anger to love. He also claimed that his use of the word towards Johnson was supposed to be out of love.
But Sharpe fought back, saying, "well, if calling a person a ni--er and subjecting them to a hostile work environment is part of STRIVE's tough love, then STRIVE needs to be reminded that this type of behavior is illegal and cannot be tolerated."
Last week, jurors awarded $250,000 in compensation damages to Johnson. The jury will return to a Manhattan federal court Tuesday to determine the punitive damages.
The Washington Times reports that the results only apply to this case specifically, but it could have further effects on how these kinds of situations are handled in the workplace.