Another lawsuit against racism in the workplace: North Shore U Hosp

Two orderlies, both African-American, have filed a lawsuit against North Shore University Hospital which, the lawsuit charges … “terrorized black orderlies with nooses and racial epithets…” according to John Marzulli in yesterday’s Daily News.

Whenever I read about a lawsuit like this, I think a lot.

First, because I make genuine efforts not to believe in toto everything I read, I wonder how accurate the allegations are. In this instance, one of the instigators named in the lawsuit essentially confessed to the charges:

The technician, Mario Nistico, admitted hanging a noose from a light fixture in an operating room in the summer of 2011 and affixing a second noose to his locker a year later.

Marzulli interviewed Nistico and wrote this:

Nistico told The News that he regrets placing the nooses in the workplace, but there was no racial malice intended.

He said the operating noose was a “goof” directed at a surgeon who was notoriously difficult to work with, prompting operating room personnel to complain they wanted to “hang themselves.”

The noose in the locker room, he said, was the product of a discussion with [Dr. Charles] Militana about capital punishment and how a condemned person could be decapitated if the hanging scaffold was too high.

“Dr. Militana asked if I knew how to make a noose,” Nistico said, and the technician showed him how to do it using surgical cord. The noose was left on the locker as an afterthought, he said.

So at this point, I believe in the validity of this lawsuit. (As well, of course, of thinking rather badly of Mr. Nistico’s social intelligence.)

Now, here’s what the eminent anesthesiologist, Dr. Charles Militana, is accused of:

Dr. Charles Militana allegedly made crude sexual remarks to Crawford about the size of his genitals and disparaged President Obama because he is black, according to the suit.

“How can Obama be smart? He is black,” Militana reportedly said, according to the suit.

And here’s what the hospital did — or, rather, didn’t do — after they received the complaints from Elijah Crawford and Ishmael Cox, the orderlies and now plaintiffs:

The Manhassett, L.I., hospital did not report the noose incidents to the Nassau County Police Department and conducted an in-house investigation that resulted in “half-hearted apologies” from Nistico and Militana, both 59, the suit states.

Mr. Crawford made the most trenchant and, in the nasty circumstances, perceptive and tolerant comment:

“Where I work, there are a lot of educated people with an immature way of behaving…”

By this time in my reading, I have come to a general conclusion about this story: how do people like Nistico and Militana live in the same world I do? How does this oh-so-casual explicit racism continue to fester in the psyches and brains of so many people? And how, why is this racism acted out, as if it’s hey, just a little joking around, in so many workplaces?

I think Mr. Crawford is being too kind when he calls it “immature” behavior. It is dumb and hateful behavior.

There’s been an on-going argument in the Voice of the People (letters to the editor) section of the Daily News on the Paula Deen story and the Trayvon Martin murder. In essence, the argument is, well, gee, who hasn’t thought or used racist terminology at some point in his or her life? Why should Paula Deen be “punished” for her racism-lite?

Oh and black teenagers? They’re really sort of threatening, aren’t they, and should be careful about how they behave when they’re, well, um, outdoors. Among us white folk.

The Deen matter and the Trayvon Martin case are not similar, although they may have sprung from the same inimical pattern of character. And that pattern of character, racism — particularly denigration of, fear of, hatred of and assault upon blacks — is not simply “unacceptable,” as the wimpy, nonjudgmental lingo of our culture would have it.

It is a sign of rotten, ignorant, limited, small-minded and small-souled people — people who are a greater threat to our often remarkable, complex country and culture than the imaginary monsters their paranoia has created.

Hey Daily News readers — and readers here or anywhere: I am not the only person living in our world who has never, never used a racist term of any kind nor has even thought a racist term. It just isn’t in my character.

And I am not the only person living in our world who loathes what you are and how you think. That is in my character.

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