Civil rights leaders are denouncing an Atlanta appeals court ruling that testimony about a white supervisor calling a black employee "boy" cannot be used as evidence of race discrimination.
In a motion filed last week, eleven civil rights pioneers asked the court to reconsider its finding that a plant manager's alleged use of the word "boy" was "conversational" and amounted to "ambiguous stray remarks" that were not made in the context of employment decisions. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the comments did not show racial animosity.
The motion, written by lawyers for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the 11th Circuit's reasoning “does not stand the test of history, experience, reality or the common social understanding of race relations in the country, particularly the South.”
If allowed to stand, the ruling will impede racial discrimination claims that rely, at least in part, on the use of racially coded slurs in the workplace, the motion said. The 11th Circuit's decisions set precedent for federal cases in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Among those signing onto the filing: Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor who was executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a founder of the SCLC; Dorothy Cotton, the SCLC’s former educational director; and former SCLC president the Rev. Joseph Lowery.