Thursday, June 3, 2010

Calling Someone the N Word Can get Expensive

When hate mongers scream in defence of free speech, they do so from a desire to maintain their ability to spread their hatred without consequence.  Even though we refer to nigger as the N word, how many times have White people whined because Blacks can say it and they can’t? OOOOOh poor babys; what an extreme violations of rights.  Despites centuries of Blacks making it clear that this word is hateful and carries with it a history of extreme racism, there are those that will not remove it from their vocabulary. 

A truly equal society holds people accountable for their actions.  Speech is not always free, and often hate speech carries a serious burden for marginalized bodies. Once in a very rare while, racists are forced to pay a price for their hate speech.

The harassing and threatening voicemail messages left on Allen Jones' mobile phone are nothing short of vulgar.

"This shouldn't be tolerated," he said. "Nobody should have to experience what I had to experience."

Debt collectors from Advanced Call Center Technologies, LLC left eight messages for Jones in August 2007 trying to collect what it said he owed on a credit card.

Most messages were laced with profanity and spewed racial slurs:

"This is your mother******* wake-up call you little lazy a** b****," a collector said on one. "Get your mother******* n****r ass up and go pick some mother******* cotton fields."

Jones is African-American.

"If we did not have tapes, no one would ever believe that this happened," Mark Frenkel, one of Jones' attorneys said.  [source]

The story made a point of stating that Jones denies that he actually owes the money in question.  While the reporter clearly decried the racism that Jones faced, the focus on the legitimacy of the debt falls into line with the social idea that people that are unable to pay what they owe are somehow worthless.  High risk loan companies, as well as credit cards that have ridiculous interests rates target African-Americans. African-Americans were also heavily targeted in the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that has left so many people homeless. Many times these companies amount to nothing more than legalized loan sharking.

Even when these collections agencies are not making racist comments, they obfuscate facts and call with such a frequency that it can amount to harassment.  Often the law and social convention support the position of these creditors, because the debtor has been deemed to be in violation of their end of the social contract.  We know that real wages have not kept up with the cost of living, and that the rate of unemployment is higher for African-Americans than Whites, yet the inability to pay debts is still looked upon as a personal failing, rather than a symptom of systemic inequality. 

The U.S. has long run on credit and this has allowed employers to continually devalue the labour of workers. Racism ensures that when people of colour do get jobs, despite education and experience they earn less than Whites. The management of the credit system is a reflection of the perversity of the capitalist system.  When debt collectors from Advanced Call Center Technologies, LLC, engaged in racism they deemed it to be acceptable because capitalism has been used as a weapon against people of colour for centuries to maintain White Supremacy.  I am quite sure they never imagined for one moment that a significant cost would be assigned because of the long standing relationship between capitalism and racism.

Friday afternoon, a Dallas County jury awarded him one of the biggest verdicts of its kind.

He won $50,000 in mental anguish and $1.5 million in punitive damages.

Though this is a victory, it is a small one.  Whiteness can afford to make small concessions like this because it does not require the overhaul that the system really needs.  This judgement will erroneously be used as evidence that racism is truly not tolerated, much like Barack and Oprah are held up as proof that we live in a post-racial world, while Blacks continue to be victims of White supremacy.