A white news anchor who was fired after asking if “we can finally say the word n***er” is suing the station for racial discrimination.
Tom Burlington, a former newscaster for Philadelphia’s local station, Fox29, was fired in 2007 after the station’s news crew was reviewing a story about the Philadelphia Youth Council holding a symbolic burial ceremony for the infamous word, historically tied to centuries of brutality against blacks by whites in the United States. Participants in the event used the word over 100 times, Philly.com reports. Burlington was scheduled to anchor the story.
“Does this mean we can finally say the word n***er?” he asked during the meeting.
Burlington’s lawsuit, which is being heard by an all-white jury, accuses Fox29 of holding a racial double standard, in which African Americans are allowed to use the word while Burlington was punished for doing so.
Fox29 attorneys stated Burlington was fired because of “his admitted misconduct, his poor judgment, the upset it caused in the newsroom, and the resulting negative publicity.”
According to his lawsuit, Burlington’s African American co-anchor, Joyce Evans, got word of what happened and confronted him, explaining why whites shouldn’t use the word, even if they hear black people use it.
“Because you’re white, you can never understand what it’s like to be called a n***er, and … you cannot use the word n***ger,” his filing says. Evans denies using the word in their discussion.
Burlington contends Evans then orchestrated something of a coup d’etat to have him fired.
Other high profile white people have found themselves in hot water for using the N-word, including Paula Deen and most recently, Chet Hanks, “rapper” and son of Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks.
“All I’m saying is white people use that term. It’s like an unspoken thing among their black friends or whatever,” he said in a recent interview with TMZ.
Not so much, according to Abiola Abrams, who penned a March op-ed for the Huffington Post entitled, “I Just Don’t Understand Why White People Want to Use the N-Word.”
“Kanye using this word in a song doesn’t take away the sting of being called the N-word in the subway a couple of years ago when I accidentally bumped into a man, smiled and apologized,” she writes. “It didn’t add a catchy jingle to my late uncle being beaten and thrown in jail without his diabetes medicine after he was the one who called the cops to report one of his wayward tenants.”
Court papers state Burlington, who now works as a real estate agent, lost $3 million in wages and is seeking unspecified damages, Philly.com reports. The trial started Monday.