Special to the World
Workers at Yale are still waiting for an apology, five weeks after an African American library worker was the victim of racial profiling by a supervisor.
On Oct. 23, Bernard Rogers, who has 26 years’ seniority, went outside the Social Science Library where he works to get a $20 loan repaid from his friend and loan him his car. A Yale supervisor who passed by reported to Rogers’ supervisor she had witnessed a drug deal. Instead of speaking with Rogers, his supervisor called Human Resources. The police marched Rogers through the library and questioned him, although the unfounded accusations were later dropped.
Having his integrity and dignity called into question triggered Rogers’ asthma. When he took a sick day he was given a verbal warning. The next week he got a written warning when he took a personal day to get his car fixed.
“They shouldn’t just assume that because two Black people are talking or exchanging money, that we’re up to something,” Rogers told the World. “No matter how we’re dressed or what our hair looks like.”
Rogers’ union, Local 34 Unite Here, which represents 2,700 clerical and technical workers on campus, came to Rogers’ defense, including his co-workers at the library.
“What happened to Rogers is a clear example of racial profiling,” said President Laura Smith. At a noon rally on Nov. 26 attended by dozens of workers, she called on Yale management “to recognize that wrongs have been committed, to accept responsibility for them and then, most importantly, to commit to preventing such harm from happening again.”
Workers from parts of campus across town spent their lunch break at the rally. A clerical worker in the Medical School was outraged. “After 26 years’ service, the supervisor should have known his character,” she said, adding, “An apology and sensitivity training are not enough, more should be done.”
Hopes for quick resolution of Rogers’ case were dashed for union steward Richard Horn after a stormy meeting between union representatives and the head of the University Libraries, who called the incident “an honest mistake.” Rogers did not get the same benefit of the doubt, Horn said.
At the noon rally, Horn said, “That supervisor probably sees white men exchange money daily. How many times has she called the police for that?”
Following the rally and growing publicity, it appears that disciplinary proceedings against Rogers will be dropped. But he still awaits an apology. “Managers should be accountable for what they do. We are,” he said.