Should Thornton have killed those people? Uh…no. What he did was wrong and in no way the proper course of action - at all. However, he's not the only one at fault here. Come to think of it, there's plenty of blame to go around in this situation.
Just as we acknowledge the wrongdoings of Omar Thornton, the wrongdoings of his employers and his coworkers should also be acknowledged and unequivocally condemned.
Now, normally, when events such as these occur, I post comments by racist sociopaths, and then do some sort of analysis. But I vowed to change my blog direction, and here’s a good place to start.
The lil sis pointed something out to me. When Thorntorn’s massacre first hit the news, the story wasn’t aired completely. Initially, his race wasn’t even mentioned in some cases (a rarity when POC are involved). But most importantly, what I noticed, is that when the story began to fully emerge, reports of his being racially harassed surfaced first. Of course…the news is now singing a different tune. First, we read about the “resignation” (not firing), then we read about stolen beer caught on tape, and finally, we get to “allegations” of racism. And now the words of living white folks are being trotted out to discredit those of a dead black man. These new verses aren’t being sung for the benefit of POC, by the way; they know better than to try to convince us.
POC have denounced racism in America for centuries. Thornton’s experiences strike us as neither new nor implausible. We know what it’s like to be the targeted, the expendable one, or the human shield, or the perpetual scapegoat, or the financially rejected, or all of the above. We are not even remotely “shocked” to read Thornton complained about racism, and how absolutely nothing was done to correct the problem. To us, that’s simply daily life in America going exactly according to schedule.
The only thing that seems “new” here is how Thornton handled his situation.
According to one blogger, black men killing over racism is small but developing trend. So in typical American fashion, denial has raised its dear little head. This is why the news is doing its damnedest to paint Thornton as just another dangerous black man from the ghetto. This is why the news articles are asking coded questions like, “Are we safe at work?” when they actually mean, “Should companies keep hiring POC?”
And let’s not forget: this is why White America is eagerly using this opportunity to say, “See! It’s not just white guys shooting up the workplace! They do it too!"
Um, no…we don’t. White male shooters do what they do because they experience a loss of privilege, a loss of being in control, and a loss of complete assurance about their social, financial, and professional security. POC don’t have that type privilege, control, or security to begin with. So when the shooter’s a POC, it’s for other reasons (subtle pun intended). Omar Thornton was racially harassed – plain and simple. The younger generations of color don’t “tolerate” racism the way previous ones did, so when they read about men like Thornton, once again, they’re not “shocked”. If anything, they are – as one of my old sociology professors probably is right now – wondering why this doesn’t happen more often (not that it should, by just how it doesn’t).
Meanwhile, the sociopaths are brushing off Thornton’s reports of racism as “playing the race card.” Once again, kids: if your skin-tone is considered a disadvantage within a society, “playing” it is the dumbest thing you can do. Thornton knew good and well his ass was headed for death row anyway, and that his complaints of racism weren’t going to change any of that. He just needed people to know why he did what he did on his way out. POC understand that; WP don’t want to.
Just to clarify once more, this is not about absolving Omar Thornton, but that his employers are to blame as well. They should’ve identified the employees who were harassing Thornton. They should’ve fired the ring leader, suspended the desperate wannabes without pay, and cut the work hours of the weak-willed followers. I think the families of the deceased – Thornton’s included – should unite and sue the company into the ground for negligence, incompetence, and overall irresponsibility.
And POC, you already know this, but it helps to read it again: never presume you’re “safe” in America, no matter where you are. Protect yourself in the workplace by every legal means necessary. Build your professional support systems from the get-go. Start befriending lawyers if you have to. This the digital age: record whatever you can and make several copies. Document incidents and collect evidence before reporting racism in writing. Contact law enforcement if the situation is severe enough. Submit a police report and file a civil suit against the specific culprit if possible.
Do not let your employers intimidate you. Talk to your EEO officers. If no one’s willing to handle it, then they’re basically saying, “Yes, we know you’re being dehumanized…just deal with it” – do your best to get such dismissals either in writing or in a recording. Let your employers know you will get both local and national media involved if effective action isn’t taken. If they try to get you to wait before contacting the media, issue a very tight deadline to your company and make it clear you don’t want an apology – you need action. If they try to get you to “talk things out” with the soulless, arrogant vampire who's been harassing you, don't fall for it.
Which brings me to another issue: do not try to “educate” your harasser; it’s not your job and even if you volunteer, it’s not going to work. So don’t try to empathize with them either; whatever childhood or marital issues they’re plagued with are not your concern. Their problems are not your problems, and if they want the “human” treatment, then they need to give it to others as well.
And don’t be afraid to take it all the way. Inform your local and state politicians; contact your Attorney General’s office if you have to. And don’t forget human rights agencies either:
- Alabama Office of Equal Employment & Civil Rights
- Alaska Education - Civil Rights
- Arizona Attorney General's Office - Civil Rights Division
- Arkansas Fair Housing Commission
- California Attorney General's Office - Civil Rights Division
- Colorado Civil Rights Division
- Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities
- Delaware Secretary of State's Office of Human Relations
- District of Columbia Office of Human Rights
- Florida Commission on Human Relations
- Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity
- Hawaii Civil Rights Commission
- Idaho Human Rights Commission
- Illinois Department of Human Rights
- Indiana Civil Rights Commission
- Iowa Civil Rights Commission
- Kansas Human Rights Commission
- Kentucky Commission on Human Rights
- Louisiana Commission on Human Rights
- Maine Human Rights Commission
- Maryland Commission on Human Relations
- Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
- Michigan Department of Civil Rights
- Minnesota Department of Human Rights
- Mississippi Department of Employment Security
- Missouri Commission on Human Rights
- Montana Human Rights Bureau
- Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission
- Nevada Equal Rights Commission
- New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights
- New Jersey Division on Civil Rights
- New Mexico Human Rights Division
- New York State Division of Human Rights
- North Carolina Human Relations Commission
- North Dakota Division of Human Rights
- Ohio Civil Rights Commission
- Oklahoma Human Rights Commission
- Oregon Civil Rights Division
- Pennsylvania Civil Rights Enforcement Section
- Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights
- South Carolina Human Affairs Commission
- South Dakota Division of Human Rights
- Tennessee Human Rights Commission
- Texas Civil Rights and Discrimination
- Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division
- Vermont Civil Rights Unit
- Virginia Council on Human Rights
- Washington State Human Rights Commission
- West Virginia Human Rights Commission
- Wisconsin Equal Rights Division
- Wyoming Labor Standards Division
And the classics:
- Amnesty International
(This advice is good for workplace victims of other –isms as well, by the way. Well…at least most of them.)