The Mix

Racism alive and well!

An African American man just won a $1 million settlement in a horrifying workplace discrimination suit.
Want proof that American racism is alive and well? Take it from Charles Hickman, an African-American Texas man who just won $1 million in a shocking race discrimination case.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Hickman was the only black employee at Commerical Coating Services, the pipe company where he worked for seven months in 2002 -- and his white colleagues never let him forget it.

In court, Hickman said that his coworkers began taunting him with racial epithets almost as soon as he'd been hired. Then, under the guise of needing to talk with him in the bathroom, two coworkers attempted to choke Hickman with a noose:
When Hickman went in, two co-workers were waiting with a hangman's noose, which they put around his neck and tightened, the suit alleged.
Hickman said a fight broke out and he lost consciousness. Once the noose was removed, he began coughing up blood.
"I'm still having problems," Hickman said. "I'm still on medication to make it through the days."
Hickman won a million dollars in the settlement -- the largest single sum the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which filed the suit in '03) has ever won for an individual.

As for the pipe company, which is under new ownership since Hickman left (and has changed its name to the remarkably new and improved Commerical Coating Services International)? It "initially tried to argue that the men [trying to choke Hickman with a noose] were involved in 'horseplay,' and it wasn't racially motivated." (Ha! Horseplay! Whooooo! Good times! Yep -- death by lynching seems pretty funny to me. Not. What's wrong with these people?)

Along with the settlement and a permanent injunction, Commercial Coating Services International has agreed to send Hickman a written apology within 14 days; as well as plant or designate a tree, in his honor, on their property. WTF -- if you can't kill 'em, plant a tree for 'em?

The whole thing makes me sick. I'm just glad the poor guy -- who has five kids, from age 13-18 -- won't have to deal with any of that (or any other workplace's) crap again. A million bucks should make life at least a little bit sweeter for him, I hope.
Laura Barcella is AlterNet's front page editor.