AFRICANGLOBE – A biracial Canadian woman was fired from the Black Educators Association (BEA) for not being “black enough,” a human rights board ruled.
Last week, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission ordered the educational organization to pay Rachel Brothers $11,000 in damages and lost income for violating the Maritime province’s Human Rights Act.
Commission Chairman Donald Murray concluded that the company’s “colourist thinking” created a toxic work environment at their main office in Halifax and a regional office in Kentville — which ultimately cost Brothers her job.
Brothers was competing with another woman, Catherine Collier, for the position of regional educator at the Kentville office.
Brothers got the job and wound up hiring Collier for a different position. But Collier still felt she was better qualified than Brothers for the more senior role because she was older and “blacker.”
“It is clear to me that Ms. Brothers was undermined in part because she was younger than, and not as black as, Ms. Collier thought Ms. Brothers should be,” wrote Murray, who was appointed chief justice of the provincial court.
BEA was created in 1969 to help black children and adults benefit from the educational system in Nova Scotia. Collier argued that Brothers was too light skinned to “officially represent” the black community of the Canadian province.
Brothers was upset by the complaints about her lighter complexion but the other employees allegedly did not speak out against them. The other staff members would rationalize the comments or shrug them off as if they were “no big deal,” according to Murray.
One employee told Brothers that she might be better off trying to get a job with a “white employer,” he said.
Murray said Collier’s behavior at the time was “frankly, appalling” and that she still dislikes Brothers eight years later.
The board ruled that Brothers was discriminated against based on her race but not her age.
“This decision addresses an important human rights issue,” said Tracey Williams, director and CEO of the commission, in a release. “The commission needs to explore this sensitive subject to better understand its impact and identify ways we can be of assistance.”
By: Michael Walsh