“I was totally shocked,” said Nyota Ellis (pictured). “I was more hurt than anything. Is this the culture of the airport? Is this the culture of how they think about black people?”
The email in question came shortly after Ellis came to work with a short bob. Its subject read, “Take a look,” featuring an attached image of Francine (pictured left), a brown-skinned character from the popular “Arthur” animated children’s series. Francine also has a similar hairstyle to the one Ellis had.
Ellis, who works for the airport’s real estate department-where she is the only African-American, says she “knew immediately knew it was about me” after opening the message.
“Clearly this shows some type of animal, with a short brown bob,” Ellis said while looking at the picture with the news team. Numerous officials also received the message.
Ellis says the co-worker who sent the email was Caucasian. “This coming from a white man, how am I supposed to take it?” she asked.
She immediately filed a complaint with the company’s HR department. However, they have been dragging their heels with the process, she claims: “I was basically told, ‘wait.’ ‘Wait.’ And I’ve been waiting.”
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this individual’s intent,” commented Rob Davis (pictured), chief negotiator for AFSCME, America’s largest public services employee union (of which Ellis also is a part).
“This was a very racist joke in which he sent to other airport officials and they never at any point in time reported it or reprimanded this individual, and for her to have to find this particular unfair depiction of African Americans is totally unfair and will not be tolerated by the AFSCME union.”
The Wayne County Airport Authority has released the following statement in response to the allegations:
“The Airport Authority has a long-standing policy of not discussing personnel matters in public. That being said, WCAA takes any complaint of discrimination very seriously. The organization’s values are posted through the workplace and they include: teamwork, accountability, customer service, integrity, employee respect and embrace diversity.”