Lisa Fisher, an African American woman, employed at Mermaid Manor Assisted living facility in Brooklyn, NY, was shocked to find her picture had been put up on Instragram by her coworkers in April 2013. It wasn’t just any picture either. These coworkers had located a picture of Ari (mistakenly referred to in the photo as Cornelius) from the 2001 movie, Planet of the Apes, and they placed her photo next to it. The caption asked if she resembled this ape.
By any standard, this would be seen as racial harassment by one’s coworkers, but Ms. Fisher did not find any sympathy or recourse when she reported the incident to her employer. Instead, she has ended up cutting back on her hours at work to try and avoid these coworkers who she reports continue to harass her. She is especially frustrated because a coworker who was not white was fired from the job for using an anti-white racial slur. When called for comment on the situation, a representative of Mermaid Manor Assisted Living said that they would be calling back. To date, they have not replied to the request for their side of the story.
As might be expected, the incident and the ongoing harassment, have taken an emotional toll on Ms. Fisher. She reports feeling “humiliated,” “very ashamed,” and even “like I have been raped.” She wants two outcomes right now from this situation: 1) to see these coworkers dismissed for their racist behavior and harassment of her; and 2) to have her story told so that people know what happened and understand what she has been going through.
Ms. Fisher does tell her story in a YouTube video in her hope that more people will learn of this racial harassment. She hopes that this hostile working environment will end. It remains to be seen what actions will eventually be taken.
Deborah is a former social work professor who taught social policy, mental health policy, and human diversity. Proud to be called liberal, she happily pays her taxes after being raised in a home that needed long-term welfare. Contrary to the opinion of many, she is living proof that government investment in children leads them out of poverty having received services from Head Start to Pell Grants. Deborah works with low-income, first generation, and disabled college students who are at high-risk for dropping out of college in a program designed to help them graduate. She lives with her husband, stepson, and an aging cat.