Maurice Grant entered into the world of Nascar, as a black woman in a white male dominated sport. As reported by Fox news according to Nascar spokesman Ramsey Poston, Nascar claims to be fully “committed to the spirit and letter of affirmative action law.”NASCAR provides equal opportunity employment to job candidates and employees without regard to race, religion, creed, age, gender, or any other characteristic protected by law. Personnel decisions are made based on factors such as performance and adherence to corporate policy.”
That declaration, came as a surprise to Ms.Grant I am sure, who claims to have been subjected to racial, and sexual harassment. She filed suit on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Her lawsuit lists the following complaints, as reported by FOX:
- Grant was forced to work outside more often than the white male officials because her supervisors believed she couldn’t sunburn because she was black.
- While riding in the backseat of her carpool at Talladega Superspeedway, co-workers told her to duck as they passed race fans. “I don’t want to start a riot when these fans see a black woman in my car,” she claims one official said.
- When packing up a dark garage at Texas Motor Speedway an official told Grant: “Keep smiling and pop your eyes out ’cause we can’t see you.”
- When she ignored advances from co-workers, Grant was accused of being gay. She also claimed co-workers questioned the sexual orientation of two other female officials.
Grant said she routinely complained to her supervisors. Two weeks after her final complaint, Grant said she was warned during the week of August 18, 2007 at Michigan International Speedway that she had engaged in “conduct unbecoming of a NASCAR representative” and would be fired unless she changed her behavior. She said the warning stemmed from a confrontation Grant had with a track official who stopped her as she passed through a gate to use the restroom.
Roughly two months later, Grant was fired, and NASCAR cited a poor work performance in ending her employment. The lawsuit claims other than a previous warning for using “street” language, Grant had never been disciplined for job performance and routinely received positive reviews.
In addition, the suit claims officials Heather Gambino and Jane Hayes were fired in 2006 for separately complaining about a sexually hostile work environment. The suit also claims former official Dean Duckett, who was black, was reprimanded and ultimately fired in November for using “aggressive language toward a white co-worker.”
Among those identified in the suit are Balash, assistant series director Mike Dolan, supervisors Alan Shephard and Dennis Dillon, NASCAR’s senior manager for business relations, the human resources director and 17 of Grant’s fellow officials. All of the defendants are white. Grant is seeking 250 million dollars in damages. She has not returned to work since being fired due to emotional issues stemming from the alleged abuse.
If even one of these incidents are true, it constitutes a hostile working environment. Though I am not privy to “inside information”, my inclination is to believe Ms.Grant. Historically when women have tried to integrate predominately male bastions they have been subject to this kind of abuse. Due to the fact that Grant is a WOC her harassment would naturally take on racial, and sexual overtones. As men increasingly undergo pressure to open positions to women that have historically been limited or closed off, the rise in resentment has been well documented. This backlash is an attempt to keep women in their place. The racial overtones are to remind Ms. Grant specifically of her standing on the gender/racial hierarchy. For a supposedly gender and racially tolerant work site, these are serious issues. Let’s unpack a few of Grants claims.
Grant was forced to work outside more often than the white male officials because her supervisors believed she couldn’t sunburn because she was black.
As we know black women have traditionally been treated as beasts of burden. When white women were dealing with the “fragility discourse”, black women were expected to work as hard, and some cases harder than their male counterparts. Being understood as the ultimate “un-woman”, black women have been a source of highly exploitable labor.
While riding in the backseat of her carpool at Talladega Superspeedway, co-workers told her to duck as they passed race fans. “I don’t want to start a riot when these fans see a black woman in my car,” she claims one official said.
Yes the sight of a black woman would cause a riot because black bodies by their very existence are unacceptable, unless they are serving in support roles, i.e domestic labor, migrant workers etc. There are few traditionally “white spaces” left, and so the presence of a black face would necessarily be seen as a threat.
When packing up a dark garage at Texas Motor Speedway an official told Grant: “Keep smiling and pop your eyes out ’cause we can’t see you.”
The lighter the pigmentation of your skin, the closer you are to being acceptable. The dark is a being used a cruel twist in words to highlight the very invisibility of people of color to some whites. Of course if one is invisible, one cannot be counted as a person therefore there is no possibility of offense.
When she ignored advances from co-workers, Grant was accused of being gay. She also claimed co-workers questioned the sexual orientation of two other female officials.
Black women are only considered women when there are sexual needs to be fulfilled. Black women have a long history of being raped by both black and white men. Both claim ownership over our bodies, but for different reasons. For white men ownership stems from the view of black women as property. For some, impregnating a black woman is no different than breeding a domestic animal. Even though slavery has long since ended white men still devalue black womens bodies. Our bodies in a sexual sense are specifically socially constructed for the pleasure of others. When Hugh Grant was arrested for soliciting prostitution, the race of “Divine Brown” was just as much an issue as his illegal activity. Grant in the public eye had risked the love (Read: virginal purity) of Elizabeth Hurley. Repeatedly the call was, “what was he thinking?” In the movie The Birdcage when a minor character is described as being found dead with an underage hooker, it is the color of the hooker, and not the age that is presented for shock value, and comic relief. It is a common view that black women are exotic, thus possessing a sexuality that is alluring, however we are viewed as completely unacceptable as wives, and mothers. White men do not own this predatory desire, as it is constructed as an impulse that is beyond their control.
Finally of course she is gay, because what women in her right mind could resist a hate filled, sexual advance. I am unsure of Ms. Grants sexual preference, however being gay should not be considered an insult. It can only be so to a mind that is filled with bigotry. The fact that it was used underscores, the kind of mentality that she was dealing with. The charge of homosexuality was used as a defense mechanism because in the biogts mind black women are always already licentious by nature, and lesbianism could be the only reason why a black woman would refuse a white penis.
As aforementioned I cannot substantiate the veracity of Ms. Grants claims, however when put into the social context of the way black women are most often perceived, her allegations have some merit. I applaud her for coming forward, as this could not have been an easy decision to make. Whatever the outcome of this case, Nascar in the future will have to ensure that it provides a working environment that is hostile free for ALL employees.