Daniel Chacon, Rocky Mountain News (Denver), November 23, 2007
The city of Denver is showing its employees a diversity training video that portrays a white man as a narrow-minded buffoon—triggering allegations of “institutional racism” against Anglos.
The video, titled “Laughing Matters—Think About It,” is meant to show employees how humor at the expense of others diminishes respect in the workplace.
The character who breaks all the rules is Billy, a white, blue-collar worker who’s a racist, sexist goofball.
Supple [Dennis Supple, a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning mechanic who has worked for the city 1 1/2 years] said the video violates his civil rights and that he’s considering taking the equity in his house to file a lawsuit to stop the city from showing it.
[Councilman Charlie] Brown said he wrote a letter to Mayor John Hickenlooper and the city’s diversity manager, Susan Maxfield, after Supple, who lives in his southeast Denver district, called and complained.
“How can city employees have meaningful discussion after seeing only a Caucasian male making insensitive comments?” Brown wrote. “All ethnic groups have a role in changing behavior across the board.”
Brown said Friday that the video perpetuates a stereotype.
Kathy Maloney, spokeswoman for the Career Service Authority, said the video is part of a one- to three-hour facilitated discussion.
She also said the teaching guide tells facilitators to “ensure participants recognize this video does not highlight or target any particular individual or group.”
“It’s meant to represent anyone who could (use) inappropriate humor in the workplace,” she said.
Supple said he raised concerns about the video during his diversity-training class, but that they were brushed off. When he met with Maxfield [Susan Maxfield, Denver’s diversity manager], Supple said she told him it was “no big deal.”
“If you portrayed a black woman (or a Hispanic or a homosexual) in that manner, there’d be hell to pay,” Supple said. “But it’s OK for them to portray a white man in this manner because you put down one little (disclaimer) at the end of the (video) that says, ‘Remember, anybody could be Billy.’ That’s a bunch of bull.”