There is no place for racial slurs in the workplace or any other place. However, with the rise of hate crimes in the United States there is also a rise in workplace behaviors that many deem as unacceptable. Racial slurs can only be eliminated when the victims minimize the importance of the perpetrator’s hostile acts.

Racial slurs are hard to eliminate because they are normally exhibited in isolation where the offended is in the company of one or more offender(s). In this case, the offender(s) can respond to any racial slur allegations by stating that the accusation is not true. This is the equivalent of the offender’s word against offended.

Therefore, a human resource personnel can only investigate and document the complaint. The result is that the aggressor can continue with the behaviors as well as the victim feeling anger associated with a system that appears to promote and endorse racial slurs. The offended will have to utilize different strategies to ensure that the offender is dealt with accordingly.

The first strategy is that the offender must minimize the anger associated with the racial slur. Anger triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. During an anger response, the brain shunts blood away from the gut and towards the muscles, in preparation for physical exertion. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises, and the skin perspires. Essentially, the offender gains control of the offended by using a racial slur.

The offended must remove any physical or emotional responses to racial slurs. In this way the offended minimizes the importance of the racial slur. When the offended continues with this behavior, the offender will eventually become more aggressive with their efforts to make the offended angry. When the offender goes too far, the offender will create a hostile work environment.  

A hostile work environment is a workplace in which unwelcome comments or conduct based on gender, race, nationality, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age, or other legally protected characteristics unreasonably interfere with an employee’s work performance or create an intimidating or offensive work environment for the employee who is being harassed. A hostile work environment is created when anyone in a workplace commits this type of harassment, including a co-worker, a supervisor or manager, a contractor, client, vendor, or visitor.

In addition to the person who is directly harassed, other employees who are impacted by the harassment (by hearing or viewing it) are also considered victims. They too might find the work environment intimidating or hostile, and it might affect their work performance. In this way, bullies and harassers can affect many more people than just the targeted employee. 

According to the definition, the offender has only created one part of the hostile work environment by using racial slurs. The offended must be able to prove that the usage of racial slurs is keeping them from performing their work productively.

The first step for the offended is to respond to the racial slur by telling the offender that you are offended. Wikipedia reports racial slurs according to ethnicity. For Blacks, racial slurs include:

  1. Ape 
  2. Boogie 
  3. a black person (film noire) “The boogies lowered the boom on Beaver Canal”.[
  4. Buck 
  5. a black person, also used to describe Native Americans.
  6. Burrhead / Burr-head / Burr head
  7. Colored 
  8. Coon 
  9. Crow 
  10. Eggplant 
  11. Jim Crow 
  12. Jungle bunny
  13. Mammy 
  14. Monkey
  15. Mosshead 
  16. Nig-nog 
  17. Nigger / nigra / nigga / niggah / nigguh
  18. Niglet / nigglet 
  19. Nigra / negra / niggra / nigrah / nigruh 
  20. Porch monkey 
  21. Powder burn 
  22. Quashie 
  23. Sambo 
  24. Smoked Irishman 
  25. Sooty 
  26. Spade 
  27. Spook 
  28. Tar baby
  29. Teapot
  30. Thicklips/Bootlips 

The second step is to send the offender written notification of the incident. Place the written incident in the had of the offender(s). and provide a copy to human resources or the owner. Make sure to send the letter certified to ensure that they receive their copy. In the letter that you provide for the offender make sure that the letter indicates that the letter is cc’d to human resources or the owner. This will prompt an investigation by human resources or the owner. During the investigation, be sure to express how the racial slur hindered your progress at work.

Related Articles

How General Motors Can Overcome It’s Toxic Work Culture

Black workers at GM plant where nooses were found allege racial harassment is ongoing

Racial slur and hand-written note trigger workplace lawsuit

All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

(856) 566-3267


Author of:

  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
  • The Raccelerate Formula App
  • Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
  • The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management
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“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
 ~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools

“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor

“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President

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