Black School Employees Accuse Black Supervisor Of Racism

Ethelda Burke racial discrimination schoolThere's no shortage of cases in which workers claim they've been discriminated against by a supervisor because of race. But it's unusual for employees to formally complain of racism from a fellow member of a minority.

Yet, that's the scenario that's played out in suburban Seattle, where nine black employees of the Tukwila School District have filed complaints of racial discrimination against their superintendent, Ethelda Burke -- who is also black, Seattle television station KING reports (via NWCN.com).

An attorney for the nine workers, who include vice principals, teachers and dispatchers, has filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and has asked the school board to immediately suspend Burke (pictured at left).

Some of the employees described to the TV station some of the comments that they've gotten from their supervisor, who came to the district five years ago:

"She said to me you have to stop being a big, black man scaring our white drivers," said Doc Fells, a driver trainer and dispatcher for the district. "And it numbed me."

Female staff at a middle school in the district said that Burke once referred to them as slaves.

"I was pissed," said Marva Harris, a school security officer.

"I couldn't believe my ears -- she would refer to professional African-American women as slaves," teacher Sandra Goins said.

The charges are especially surprising given the district's racial diversity -- more than two-thirds of students are non-white.

"For me, I feel a sense of betrayal," Harris said. "That I'm betraying her, because she's a black woman."

KING reports that Harris and other district officials declined comment about the allegations, citing personnel issues.




Don't Miss: Companies Hiring Now



Looking for a job? Click here to get started.


David Schepp

Staff Writer

David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.

Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Follow David on Twitter.
Email David at david.schepp@huffingtonpost.com. Add David to your Google+ circles.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

71 Comments

Filter by:
rtgmjg

Racism is alive and well around the world. People just don't like other people, some of them are correct. I've been called a White M-------- many times

July 26 2012 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JAMES4ME

CONGRATULATIONS ON GOING AFTER THAT AUNTIE TOMASINA THIS IS WHEN I AM SO PROUD OF MY PEOPLE WHEN THEY FIGHT FOR THERE RIGHTS .MALCOM X WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD AND AS FOR THESE STUPID NASTY SALTINE CRACKERS WHO DONT LIKE IT OR WANT TO SAY NOTHING WAS WRONG WITH THAT WELL THEY CAN KISS OUR A..!!!! NO WAIT I SHOULD NOT HAVE SAID THAT CAUSE SEE MINE IS BIG AND SEXY AND THEY MIGHT ENJOY IT.

March 22 2012 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to JAMES4ME's comment
seattlewkr

James, why don't you just lead by example, instead of screaming racism?

March 22 2012 at 1:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
calhounrules

James like it up his big black ass it seems lololololo

July 27 2012 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
seattlewkr

Yep, many minorities use the race card every time it's convenient, even against each other.

March 22 2012 at 1:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jac2jill

Guess we need congress to pass another law to deal with this ! When you can't win the contest ... cry racism ! How can you be against your own kind ? Get a life !

March 22 2012 at 12:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kicker4ld

These comments don't seem too bad. You tell a big black man, to stop being a scary big black man and it numbed him? Really? I'm sure he never used his size or his race to intimidate anyone, ever. I'm sure her comment was prompted by complaints from the drivers. And as far as the whole slaves comment, sounds like a bad joke, or one she could have gotten away with if she wasn't the supervisor. I'd be interested to know how many non blacks were in the group of staffers referred to as slaves. Not much actual info on the accusations, but I guess that's internet journalism for you. Keep it general and rack up the comments and page views

March 22 2012 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kicker4ld's comment
kicker4ld

Maybe I'm wrong. It seems like she thought she could joke about being black with black people, but she found out once you're in charge you're seen as just another master. I just don't see a lot of difference in her calling coach JD Hill, JD Dark, as a pet name, and one black guy greeting the other with "what's up my N ig". I guess by making it to superintendent she lost her hood pass and can't use the N-word anymore. I'll agree that it was inappropriate for work, but I find it a stretch to call her a racist

March 22 2012 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sankofathoughts4

Willie Lynch lived; the letters are not an urban myth and to this day we, of all races, suffer! The remnants of Lynch's instructional letters to slave holders guiding the "breaking" and "continuing servitude" are enduring.

March 22 2012 at 11:54 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sankofathoughts4's comment
calhounrules

continuing servitude? Just asking blacks to support themselves instead of handouts.

July 27 2012 at 3:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
STEPHANIE

This happens more often than we'd like to believe--sometimes in order to get ahead or to attempt to get ahead, minorities will push their hatred of themselves onto others who look like them--in some ways people think maybe White people will accept them if they see that the person does not identify with his or her minority status. Yes, it is possible for Black people to be racist toward other Blacks.

March 22 2012 at 9:58 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to STEPHANIE's comment
calhounrules

More likely people will just use a easy excuse for their own shortcomings

July 27 2012 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fr.duane

It reminds me of how a few years ago the black mayor of Jackson, Mississippi was accused by some of his black constituents of 'racial profiling' because he moved to implement more aggressive anti-crime measures in the higher crime areas of the city, some of which included mostly black neighborhoods.

Most curious indeed!

March 22 2012 at 8:04 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
svvalkyrie

I was numerously called Honky and passed over for promotion because I was white and they needed a specific number of blacks, who do I sue?

March 22 2012 at 6:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to svvalkyrie's comment
seattlewkr

Who do you sue? Nobody. Why? Because racism is apparently legal when it comes to Caucasians. It plays out time and time again.

March 22 2012 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
HIS MAJESTY KING

And for the record residents of Seattle state? Racism does exist, it's unfortunately well and alive. Over several hundreds of years of slavery, and oppression . . . . . does not atone, or account for mistreatment, misrepresentation of the humanity of a race, or culture of people. One Barack Obama, One Oprah Winfrey, and a select handful of actors, entertainers, or athletes, nor the success of a minimal few ( verses the world population) make up any significant marginal differences of the monstrosities committed through the brutal tactics of ostracism, violent, vengeful, acts of intimidation that were Godless, and still considered less than 50 odd years ago the law of the land. I'm not angry? I consider myself successful by my own work ethics, I consider myself a child of God, and have love & compassion for my brothers /sisters of all races, creeds, and colors; interacting with them on a regular consistent basis inside & outside of work, .......... but yet and still, nor am I blind! Why should I have to be? When it's so prevalent around me each & every single day of my life? Apparent as it is, it ( racism) sticks out like a sore thumb from our politics, criminal justice system. Right down to entertainment READ THE REAL NEWS WITHOUT THE SPIN from The murder of a Juvenile Florida teenager being batched, covered over, and mishandled (sadly not the first time to The 2012 Oscars@ with their high brow offensive humor thought no one would get it huh?) I did .... and I'll have to say I wasn't amused! I'm not asking for any handouts much less a hand? But? I want my R-E-S-P-E-C-T which I'm required to give to all. It's unfortunate sometimes that I have to be placed in a position where If and when necessary? Have to make it known that I'll take my respect if not given to me as I have applicably given towards anyone of any race, sex, creed, or color.

March 21 2012 at 11:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Search Jobs

In Partnership With
Keywords:
Location:

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

April 13 - April 20

Looking for work? See what companies added new openings this week.