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The supervisor is no longer with the company but the racism that Harris and Mangrum experienced is a stark reminder of Jim Crow laws, which took their name from an old minstrel song, that were passed in the Deep South to oppress Black Americans. The laws maintained a strict system of segregation between blacks and whites and created obstacles to prevent blacks from voting.

Today, hate groups are on the rise. The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 939 active hate groups in the United States – and 37 of them are located in Tennessee. Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 56 percent, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.

The surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president. Meanwhile, the recording at the Tennessee cotton gin also reveals a man saying “nobody thought anything” of segregation in the past and ‘now everybody is made… to think it’s bad.” “He told me, ‘Shut up! Don’t you hear the white people are in here talking,’” said Harris.

Just who is responsible for the supervisor’s racist remarks is the subject of debate. E.W. Atkinson owns the cotton warehouse but he said the management of the company is provided by another firm, Federal Compress, and that he should not be held accountable for the supervisor’s racist comments.

Still, Atkinson said he was shocked by the recordings. “I just wasn’t around. I’m sorry I didn’t know sooner,” Atkinson told a local television station. “I don’t want people to think that we would let this behavior go on without doing something about it, seriously.”

Federal Compress released this statement: Federal Compress maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy which prohibits any form of racially or other discriminatory conduct or language in the workplace and provides a process for reporting such violations to Human Resources for investigation.  When Federal Compress was first made aware of these allegations concerning an employee working in another company’s workplace, it conducted a thorough and extensive investigation.  The person was immediately removed from that workplace, and is in fact no longer employed by Federal Compress. Federal Compress very much regrets that the allegations were not reported to it when the first incident is claimed to have occurred.

Because the racial harassment lasted so long, it’s hard to imagine that Harris, Mangrum and the supervisor were the only people at the cotton gin who knew about the supervisor’s racist statements.

“We were going through this [discrimination] every day,” Harris said, “and we got tired of it.” So now it’s up to the EEOC to investigate the situation.

I’m glad Harris and Mangrum filed a federal compliant so all the facts will be scrutinized in the sunlight.

What do you think?

Photo: (WREG)

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COMMENTARY: Jim Crow Alive And Well At Tennessee Cotton Gin  was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

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