Woman fired from black educators association because she was 'not really black enough'

September 2014

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – A biracial woman has won her case against her former employer – the Black Educators Association – after human rights officials deemed she had been bullied by co-workers for being “not really black enough” to do her job.

Rachel Brothers was hired by the Black Educators Association in 2006 and almost immediately came under fire from subordinate Catherine Collier who, according to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, made it clear she thought Brothers was too young and too light-skinned to represent the race-based organization to the community, The Chronicle Herald reports.

Other employees joined in on the bullying, with one telling Brothers she should “go work for whitey,” reports.

But Collier was the instigator of much of the abuse directed at Brothers. It’s worth noting Collier had interviewed for the job that ended up going to Brothers.

Donald Murray, chairman of the Board of Inquiry at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, determined that staff members who didn’t join in Collier’s bullying made excuses for the behavior or simply shrugged it off.

Leaders of the Black Educators Association fired Brothers less than a year on the job for financial irregularities; the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission found no evidence of any wrongdoing on Brothers’ part and concluded she had been let go because of her too-light skin color, reports.

“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,” Murray wrote in his decision.

He added, “In Ms. Collier’s eyes, Ms. Brothers was not really black enough.”

From The Chronicle Herald:

Murray said the evidence led him to conclude that in 2006, the Black Educators Association “accepted colorist thinking.” He defined that as someone who believes the closer a person’s skin tone comes to pure white, the better the chances of getting jobs, accommodations and other opportunities available to “actual ‘white’ people.”

Colorists also think the more visibly black, East Indian, American Indian or Asian a person is, “the greater the potential there will be for discriminatory distinctions to be made based on ‘color,’” Murray wrote.

Murray also faulted Black Educators Association’s former leader Jacqueline Smith-Herriott for being aware of the “colorist and ageist comments being made” against Brothers but failing to take corrective action.

Murray’s commission awarded Brothers nearly $11,000 in damages for injury to her “dignity and self-worth.” reports that “the Black Educators Association was founded in 1969 to help Africa Nova Scotian communities.”