I'm talking about dog food and money here.
Dig these excerpts from a story in the Los Angeles Slimes (excuse me...Times):"
A black firefighter who was served dog food in his spaghetti by fellow firefighters will be paid more than $2.7 million to settle a lawsuit alleging racial harassment within the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The award, approved on an 11-1 vote Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council, is the latest in a recent string of settlements of lawsuits by firefighters claiming discrimination and harassment and retaliation against those who complain.
It is believed to be the largest payout for misconduct in the department's history, which was long considered among the nation's finest, but has often been the target of complaints about hostility toward African American and female firefighters.
Firefighter Tennie Pierce, 51, alleged in his lawsuit that Firefighter Jorge Arevalo mixed canned dog food into Pierce's dinner at their Westchester station two years ago; that Capt. John Tohill purchased the dog food; and that Capt. Chris Burton knew about the prank but didn't warn Pierce. All three men were present when Pierce ate the dog food.
Pierce "took a large bite, at which time he noticed the other firefighters were laughing and making noises," the lawsuit says. He took a second bite, then demanded to know what was in his food, "but no one would tell him." Pierce then left the kitchen "with his co-workers laughing at him."
...A UC Santa Cruz professor who was hired by Pierce's attorney to review department records of discrimination complaints said the prank was clearly intended to "humiliate and dehumanize" Pierce.
"The association of a black man and dog food resonates with the deep historical roots of slavery and the corresponding dehumanization," said sociologist David Wellman, co-author of "Whitewashing Race: Colorblind Policies in a Color Conscious America."
"It's not just silly stuff. It's racially motivated…. The organization labels it as macho, 'boys will be boys' behavior. I think it's more about keeping blacks out by making their lives so miserable that they don't want to stay."
In his lawsuit, Pierce said that for more than a year after the October 2004 incident he was subjected to "verbal slurs, insults [and] derogatory remarks" — including taunting by firefighters "barking like dogs [and] asking him how dog food tasted" — in the presence of supervisors.
(What the Times story omits -- as I'd expect from this paper -- is testimony that Pierce called himself "Big Dog" when playing ball, and would allegedly yell "Feed the Big Dog!" over and over during games.)
In addition to the payout, the settlement provides for Pierce to remain on fully-paid administrative leave until April, when he reaches his 20-year service anniversary. Then he can retire with an annual pension amounting to half of his salary for life.
Damn. I'd eat two bites of dog food and let people call me anything they want for a whole lot less than Pierce is getting!
Call me racially insensitive all you want, people. But this is not about someone who was targeted because of his skin color. This is about someone who was pranked and who used his skin color to get himself a nice, fat payday.
If we are ever to get beyond racism in this country, it behooves those who play the phony race card and cry "victim!" at every turn, who can't learn the difference between pranks and racism, to get real. They perpetuate the stereotypes that divide us.
49 minutes ago