Professors and students from the New York Law School Racial Justice Project recently filed an amicus brief in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for the case of Hithon v. Tyson Foods.
John Hithon, an African American man, claims that Tyson Foods discriminated against him when it denied him a promotion. More specifically, Hithon claims that the supervisor’s continuous use of the word “boy” to describe him is “deeply offensive and that its use reflects discriminatory intent” under Federal Civil Rights laws (42 U.S.C. §1981). At trial, two Alabama juries found that Tyson Foods had violated the Federal Civil Rights laws and awarded Hithon substantial damages. The appeals court, however, reversed both juries, effectively dismissing Hithon’s suit. Hithon is now seeking to have the appeals court rehear the case and reinstate the jury verdicts.
Students in the Racial Justice Litigation Course, a project-based seminar, co-authored the brief with Professors Deborah N. Archer and Elise C. Boddie. In writing the brief, the students gathered and reviewed historical research about the general cultural understanding that the use of the word “boy,” when directed at an African American adult male by a white supervisor, is racially discriminatory. The students also completed significant legal research and writing, assisting the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the local Alabama attorney working on the case.
The team of students was comprised of John Alberg, Mariko Gaines, Jill Gottfried, Sara Katz, Winnie Lai, Raj Lapsiwala, Rachel Newman, Kendro Okoposo, Nikhil Pandey, Bijal Soni, and Charita Walcott. Also instrumental were Camille Broussard, Michael Roffer, and the rest of the research librarians.
The brief was submitted on behalf of pioneers of the civil rights movement, individuals (see the full list of names here) who were close associates of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and instrumental in the Birmingham campaign, which helped turn the tide of the Civil Rights Movement, eventually leading the way for the passage of major civil rights laws.
Read the brief in full here.