A federal jury has rejected the argument that use of the n-word among black people can be a culturally acceptable term of love and endearment, deciding its use in the workplace is hostile and discriminatory no matter what. Jurors last week awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages to a black employment agency worker who was the target of an n-word-laced rant by her black boss, and they returned to a Manhattan federal court today to begin deciding on punitive damages.
The case is against Rob Carmona and the employment agency he founded, STRIVE East Harlem. Brandi Johnson, 38, told jurors that being black didn't make it any less hurtful when Carmona used the n-word as he criticized her workplace attire and behavior. In his testimony, Carmona defended his use of the word, saying he used it with Johnson to convey that she was "too emotional, wrapped up in her, at least the negative aspects of human nature." Then he explained that the word has "multiple contexts" in the black and Latino communities, sometimes indicating anger, sometimes love. He was asked if he meant to indicate love when he called Johnson the word. "Yes, I did," he responded. (Read more n-word stories.)