A federal jury has rejected the argument that use of the N-word among blacks can be a culturally acceptable term of love and endearment, deciding its use in the workplace is hostile and discriminatory no matter what.

Jurors last week awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages to a black employment agency worker who was the target of an N-word-laced rant by her black boss, and they return to a Manhattan federal court today, to decide on punitive damages.

The case against Rob Carmona and the employment agency he founded, STRIVE East Harlem, gave legal airing to what some see as a complex double standard surrounding the word: It’s a degrading slur when uttered by whites, but can be used at times with impunity among blacks.

But 38-year-old Brandi Johnson told jurors that being black didn’t make it any less hurtful to be the target of what her attorney called Carmona’s “four-minute n—– tirade” about inappropriate workplace attire and unprofessional behavior.

Johnson, who taped the March 2012 remarks after her complaints about his verbal abuse were disregarded, said she fled to the restroom and cried for 45 minutes.

In closing arguments, Johnson’s attorney 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 n—– to an African-American, no matter how many alternative definitions that you may try to substitute with the word n—–, 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,” her attorney stated.

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 later became clean 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, as is Mr. Carmona, his defense attorney told jurors

In his testimony, Carmona defended his use of the word, saying he used it with Johnson to convey that she was “too emotional and wrapped up in 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.

The controversy is a blemish on STRIVE, which has been heralded for helping people with troubled backgrounds get into the workforce.  Its employment model, which was described in a piece on CBS’ “60 Minutes” as “part boot camp, part group therapy,” claims to have helped nearly 50,000 people find work since 1984.

Johnson’s attorney told jurors that STRIVE’s tough-love program cannot excuse Carmona’s behavior and subjecting someone to a hostile work environment is illegal and is not to be tolerated.

I have always believed that a word used to abuse or demean or belittle another person was wrong and should never be excused away.  It does not matter what the word is that you are using, but rather it is the ultimate reason for the conversation and what the intent or resulting affect.

This is no different than calling a handicapped person “a cripple.”  I absolutely hate that word and find it highly offensive and anyone who uses it; is either stupid or being verbally abusive.  They may try to excuse its use after the fact by claiming to use the word to describe the person, but if it was used in accompaniment with anger, than it was meant to offend.

To use the N-word and claim that it is a term of love and endearment is absolutely ridiculous and this country will always be divided racially, as long as you perpetuate a double standard, regardless of which race does it.

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