Workplace Hate Crime Goes Unpunished
Landing a good job left one man afraid for his life
Using the term ‘post-racial America’ is the equivalent of President Bush putting “Mission Accomplished” on the side of a plane during a war that has still not yet ended. But yet and still, the reminders we get from time to time of just how far we are from post-racial anything can be quite jarring.
One such example would be the case of Richard Beachman Sr., a 28-year-old Arkansas native who recently moved to the suburbs of Chicago to be with his fiancée, Shaunta, and young son. Despite his tall sturdy frame and commanding presence he is a quiet and shy young man with a love of football and working with his hands. Upon settling in his new Calumet City home, he went to AeroTek Temporary Services to find work as a general laborer as he seeks a more permanent job in construction. The agency originally staffed him at Oshkosh Specialty Vehicle where he was working to break down a plant that is soon to close. He was the only Black person working at that location. From his first day on the job, Beachman found that his co-workers treated him rudely and made subtle racial comments in his presence. He attempted to ignore their behavior the same sort of treatment he’d hoped to escape making his way up North-and focused on doing his job. The men of Oshkosh soon made that impossible.
As Beachman sat down to take a break on July 20th, one of his coworkers looked at him with a smirk before picking up a nearby rope and fashioning it into a noose. Stunned, he again walked away without challenging the man or notifying a supervisor. The next day, Beachman returned to his work space after a 20-minute-break to find the other employees circled around looking at a noose hanging from a ceiling; he heard one of them joke “We gonna have an old fashioned lynching.” 2011, folks. 2011.
After snapping camera phone pictures of the noose, Beachman went to the office to call AeroTek manager Dave Herburger, who promised to speak to management at Oshkosh regarding the two incidents. He informed him that he had “a good friend’ in management at Oshkosh and would speak with him. Beachman made it clear that he felt threatened and unsafe by the incident. That night he and his fiancée made a report with the Calumet City Police Department where they were guided by a sergeant on duty to describe the incident as a hate crime. The next day, Beachman called Herburger three times before his call was returned; he was asked why he had not returned back to work. Beachman again explained that he felt that his safety was in danger at Oshkosh. Herburger assured him that his supervisor, Chris, had handled the situation; when asked what had been done to ensure his safety, who at Oshkosh was informed of Beachman’s compliant and if he could contact Oshkosh’s corporate office, he was stonewalled. Beachman’s mother-in-law, who is a Chicago Police Officer, called to follow up and Herburger hung up on her.
Beachman (pictured here with his son) returned to work Monday only to be met with stares and whispers; no one would address him directly. On Tuesday, no one asked him to do any work, at which point he spoke to a supervisor to let him know how uncomfortable he felt and to again try and obtain a corporate number. The supervisor walked away grinning, as he told Beachman that he had no number to provide.
Richard and Shaunta contacted David Wittig, who was said to be managing the closing of the Illinois warehouse; he told them that the laborers who had made the noose and the and comments were soon to lose their jobs and suggested that they were simply acting out because of their frustrations over their impending unemployment or out of spite for the company. He promised to follow up with the couple over two weeks ago and has not done so. “
A local news outlet did not reply to the family’s request for assistance with getting the story out; the NAACP has also failed to respond to the family’s request for help. According to Shanta, Richard has had recurring nightmares and has a hard time falling asleep at night since the incident. He has become nervous and withdrawn. While the incident itself took quite a toll on him, the lack of support and cooperation from Oshkosh and AeroTek have been especially hurtful. I don’t know what to do,” says Richard. “I feel like no one is doing anything about this and that either they don’t care or don’t realize the seriousness of what was done to me.”
AeroTek will be providing The Loop with an official statement on the matter in the near future. While I'm are glad they've responded to my inquires about the incident, there must be consequences for those responsible for the threats and the lack of action. It should not take a writer calling from New York to make a company in Illinois understand that racist harassment is not something to be taken lightly.
If anyone wants to continue to argue the canard that is ‘post-racial’ anything, give Richard a call first.