Recently, Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel resigned after photos of him dressed in blackface as a Hurricane Katrina victim surfaced. Ertel was appointed as Florida Secretary of State by first-term governor Ron DeSantis. Governor DeSantis, a Republican, defeated Andrew Gillum – the first African American democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida – last November in the election. Ironically, (perhaps not), DeSantis is the same man who told Floridians just days before the election: “the last thing we need to do is monkey this up…” This was a clear reference to Mr. Gillum’s race, and a message to Floridians not to elect the state’s first Black governor. Apparently, Governor DeSantis’s Secretary of State shared some of the same racial sentiments as the man who appointed him.
Blackface was one of the most notable features of minstrelsy. What, ironically, started off as African American slaves mimicking slave masters and owners turned into white people putting burnt cork or shoe polish on their faces and acting as Black caricatures.
The #metoo movement has increased the focus on sexual harassment cases and how courts analyze them. One way to increase the reach of harassment law is hidden in plain sight: the text of Title VII itself.
Title VII, the federal law that prohibits harassment based on race, sex, and other protected traits, has two main provisions. Under Title VII’s first provision, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to do the following:
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
The twilight hours of that night in 2016 are buried in oblivion, sunk out of my head, perhaps for self-protection. Fraternity boy coolness turns to shadiness at nightfall. His country boy accent is of the coal pitch blackness of the mines. I try to take flight, hasten away from my wails, make a quick getaway. I sink lower, shutting my eyes in this icebox. He is soulless, like a lone wolf committing acts of terrorism upon me in his below-zero bedroom His 240 pounds are unrelenting against my small body. He’s deaf to my screams. I tunnel inside myself, finding a crawlspace to hide. He finishes, “Don’t go out there and make a big deal out of this.” So, I am cast aside, and sent back outside into the cold night.