As the world we live in becomes more and more politically correct, the boundaries of “correctness” are often questioned and challenged. One such topic around the notion of racial discrimination which has been debated is whether or not “reverse racism” exists. Can a white person really be discriminated against due to their skin color? A lawsuit recently filed against the Getty Center (also known as the J Paul Getty Museum) alleges just that. Samantha Neimann is an undergraduate student at Southern Utah University who states she was “deterred from applying” to the Getty Center's Multicultural Internship program – due to the fact she is white. Neimann is of German, Irish, and Italian descent, however, these ethnicities do not satisfy the program's requirements. The program stipulates that in order to be eligible, a student must be a “member of groups traditionally underrepresented in the staffs of museums and visual arts organizations….those of African-American, Asian, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander descent.”
Neimann's lawsuit asserts that she was well qualified for the internship, boasting a 3.7 GPA, but was not considered for the internship based solely on her ethnicity. The lawsuit also alleges she was “harassed, discriminated, and retaliated against”, though the circumstances surrounding the other charges were not elaborated upon. She is seeking compensatory damages for lost wages (the program allots interns a $4,500 stipend for 10 weeks of participation), “including, but not limited to loss of earnings and future earning capacity, medical and related expenses for care and procedures both now and in the future, attorney's fees, and other pecuniary loss not presently ascertained.”
Ron Hartwig, the vice president of communications for the J. Paul Getty Trust has stated that within recent months, the internship program has been opened up to white applicants. This comes after several inquiries from potential applicants, though the purpose of this specific program is to increase diversity in the arts. Created in 1993, the program has supported over 3,000 internships at 152 organizations throughout the country. In the past, at least one white student was accepted in 2006, which may pose a problem for Neimann's case. Additionally, it should be known that the Getty Center does not manage all of the applications, as students apply for internships directly with the foundation they wish to work for.
This all begs the question – is this “reverse racism”? Does such a phenomenon even exist, or is it all just…well, plain old racism? Though they aren't as common, cases have been filed and won with white plaintiffs alleging workplace discrimination.
In 2014, a civil lawsuit was filed against Prince George's County school board by Jon Everhart, a white teacher who stated he was targeted and discriminated against due to his ethnicity. The harassment started in 2003 when the future principal (at the time, she was a physical education teacher) made racially insensitive comments to students such as, “The only reason a white man teaches in P.G. County is that they can't get a job elsewhere.” Similar comments were made directly to Everhart including calling him “white bitch” and “poor white trash”. The discrimination ultimately resulted in Everhart's termination which also caused his teaching license to be revoked. In the end, Everhart was awarded $350,000 for the ordeal.
Also in 2014, a white police officer from New York by the name of Christopher Barrella was awarded $1.35mil following his discrimination lawsuit. He stated that his mayoral boss, Andrew Hardwick, passed him over in consideration of the upcoming position for police chief. Instead, a Hispanic officer was given the position though he was technically far less qualified. Mr. Barrella boasted a law degree, master's degree in public administration, special training at an FBI academy, and other accolades. The officer chosen for the position had only a high school diploma and received a third-place finish on his civil service exam while Mr. Barrella received the top score.
It goes without saying that regardless of the race or ethnicities involved, racism in any venue is not acceptable or tolerated in today's society. Contact the author of this article at Aegis Law Firm, based in Irvine California for further information on how to defend yourself legally should you be facing racial discrimination at your workplace.