The N-Word Is Put On Trial

by Yesha Callahan



Rob Carmona has learned a lesson that will cost him $250,000. Carmona, the founder of Strive, a Harlem based temporary agency, will have to pay his former employee, Brandi Johnson, $250,000 in compensatory damages for using the “n” word towards her at work. In the lawsuit against Carmona, Johnson claims that she was victim to his numerous “n” word tirades about  inappropriate workplace attire and unprofessional behavior.

The Associated Press reports:

“I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed,” Johnson testified.

In closing arguments, Johnson’s attorney Marjorie M. Sharpe said Carmona’s use of the word was intended to offend “and any evidence that defendants put forth to the contrary is simply ridiculous.”

“When you use the word ni**er to an African-American, no matter how many alternative definitions that you may try to substitute with the word ni**er, that is no different than calling a Hispanic by the worst possible word you can call a Hispanic, calling a homosexual male the worst possible word that you can call a homosexual male,” Sharpe told jurors.

But defense lawyers said the 61-year-old Carmona, a black man of Puerto Rican descent, had a much different experience with the word. Raised by a single mother in a New York City public housing project, he became addicted to heroin in his teens and broke it with the help of drug counselors who employed tough love and tough language.

Carmona went on to earn a master’s degree from Columbia University before co-founding STRIVE in the 1980s. Now, most of STRIVE’s employees are black women, defense attorney Diane Krebs told jurors in her opening statement.

“And Mr. Carmona is himself black, as you yourselves can see,” Krebs said.

In his testimony, Carmona defended his use of the word, saying he used it with Johnson to convey that she was “too emotional, wrapped up in her, at least the negative aspects of human nature.”

Then he explained that the word has “multiple contexts” in the black and Latino communities, sometimes indicating anger, sometimes love.

A jury didn’t see his use of the word as an indication of love, but hostile and discriminatory even if it’s being used by one black person towards another. On top of the compensatory damages of $250,000, the jury also awarded Johnson $30,000 in punitive damages.

Below is a recording of Carmona’s “n” word rant the jury heard:

What do you think about Carmona’s use of the “n” word and the jury’s decision?

  • Tiffy

    Black folks of all ethnicities need to dead this word. This man was outta line and his tirade was disrespectful. I’m happy this lady is getting her money.

  • Margaret

    Inappropriate in the workplace – no matter who works there. Ron needs sensitivity training – and needs to stop making excuses for being ignorant.

  • stef

    I agree with the decision, regardless of how you feel about the word and who has a right to use it. It should never be used in a professional workplace and it can be considered a hostile environment.

    Now where this can get interesting is if i am white, asian or Latino and my coworkers say at a construction throw the word at each other all day. Can I sue ?hmmm

  • vintage3000

    “..Now, most of STRIVE’s employees are black women…”

    Which is why this Tio Tomas felt so comfortable using that word so freely. He knows other Black men would beat his natural you know what if he spoke to them that way. I’m glad this lady won her lawsuite.

  • M

    I hate the word. The only thing I have against this ruling is that Paula Deen says it its alright because its her culture. He says it and has the book thrown at him. I can’t help but think that this jury had the but black people can say it and we can’t envy. Which never made much sense to me for someone to be so upset for not being able to say one disgusting word.

  • Josh

    It least this sets a nice precedent for showing no mercy to other races that use the word against us.

    Am I the only one that laughed at:
    “And Mr. Carmona is himself black, as you yourselves can see,” Krebs said.

  • lea


  • Mr. Man

    This happened at most all construction sites I’ve ever been on when i was in that line of work. Currently my buddy who’s an electrician is called this all the time by his boss. I will be sharing this article with him.

  • khrish67

    I hate that word and never use it. I’m a senior citizen and I shall always hate that word. There is nothing that anyone can say or explain that will ever make me accept that word. It is offensive to me to hear other Black use it. Even other ethic groups have commented on Blacks who choose to use that word and then try to explain it away. I”ve never heard any other ethic group in this nation take the ugly nasty words chosen to describe them and work to turn it into a term of endearment. We are a strange breed. Even the Black Brits are shocked that we would that word to describe ourselves. It doesn’t take the nastiness away from it and I don’t care how you choose to spell it. Good he was fined and I hope more are fined when they use it. Someone needs to make an example of how nasty and demeaning it is and how embarrassed we should be as Blacks to use it ourselves. Bravo! Keep up the good work.

  • TT

    This truly shows how far black people have come in taking the sting out of the word right? No one should this word. It is still offensive to many people no matter how many people attempt to use it in a friendly manner.

  • Akay Tetrazzini

    Do unto them what u want them to do unto u. We shldn’t label ourselves what whitees shldn’t call us.

  • naan

    ALL people beware: Just because you are down with using slang DO NOT think that the other people you work with are down with it as well. This goes for ALL people of ALL groups.

    I have seen so many people using the most foul language like it’s “just ok”. I’ve had to check quite a few and tell them “no, don’t call me that”.

    And i’m not just talking about “n*gga”. That’s the word the media likes to focus on to scapegoats Blacks. I’ve witness for myself how FOUL other groups are too with their language and think it’s “perfectly ok” and “it isn’t meant like THAT”.

    The slang is getting ridiculous.

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