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Exclusive Interview With The Author: Kent Paul PDF Print E-mail
Written by Patricia Turnier   
Monday, 03 October 2011 06:17


Kent Paul was born in the eastern Caribbean on the island of St. Lucia. He comes from a family of teachers and other professionals where education was valued. He attended Colleges in Texas as well as in St. Lucia. He now lives in the United States with his wife and three children. In his first book Making history with Crosswords and Prozac, he shares his journey from his island to the U.S. The book covers many topics: migration, the glass ceiling in the job market, racial discrimination, the insidious impact of psychological violence on an individual and his family, economic violence and iniquity, devastating deprivation (loss of property, income…) with its financial and social mobility difficulties, legal barriers, mental health problems (caused by the racial harassment in his work place), marital difficulties, etc. In his book, Paul is sending the message that it is fine to ask for help. The author demystifies what is related to mental health issues. Mainly, in his book Paul exposes the ordeal he went through in 2005 with other African-American colleagues at his work place. For years, he faced racial discrimination with a Toyota dealership in Gladstone (Oregon), the Thomason AutoGroup .

Kent Paul could easily be a bitter, angry black man given what he’s been through, but it is not the case. Making history is the true story of his first real encounter with racial hostility and his multi-million dollar courtroom battle. In 2006, the salesmen Kent Paul, Marcus Arnold, Carlos Barfield and Jahaeel Hardy filed a lawsuit against Asbury Automotive Group, which owned Thomason Toyota during their employment . The suit claimed that they lost car deals because they were black. Paul and the three other African-American men plaintiffs won the race discrimination lawsuit against Thomason AutoGroup. The verdict of a $19 million settlement was handed down by a federal jury in 2008. The jury awarded $1.9 million to Hardy and Paul for emotional distress and $2.75 million in punitive damages; $2.1 million to Arnold and Barfield for emotional distress and another $2.75 million in punitive damages. However, it is important to note that a final confidential settlement was done with the judge. Mr. Paul and the other plaintiffs are satisfied with the definitive compensation.

Through the metaphor of a crossword puzzle, one of Paul’s favourite hobbies, he philosophically reviews the events of his life. His journey takes him from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia to the U.S., into a huge car dealership lawsuit and eventually to victory and vindication with the jury verdict. Paul expressed to the media that many concerned American citizens care about the downward spiral race relations have taken, and felt the need to tell his story to inspire people to take bolder and wiser steps in dealing with this issue. Despite the financial and emotional toll the trial took on Paul and his family, he has become a charismatic and positive man – all with the help of crosswords and Prozac. 

What makes the story powerful is the fact it is about four African-Americans in the same workplace who fought the company. Often, in cases of discrimination and/or harassment in the workplace, it is one individual who complains and takes legal actions which makes the case weak. When several individuals with the same ethnic background go through this ordeal, they have less weight when trying to prove that there is a systemic problem. Paul’s story is historical and unique because according to data 98% of racial discrimination cases never get to the courtrooms. He and his colleagues who were involved in the lawsuit showed boldness and courage. They fought a 4.6 billion dollar Giant and some of them even received threats and was harassed by one of the superiors.  

Racism doesn’t manifest overtly like before in America, however, it takes a much more subtle form that needs to be identified and fought. This is what Kent Paul and the three other African-Americans did with the help of these great jurists: Keith Dozier, Aaron Baker and Gene Hallman.  Historically, the U.S. federal and state governments have acted to abolish discrimination in the workplace, schools, sports, and public places, with statutes that include punishments for discriminatory practices. Fines and even prison time for individuals are possible consequences of discrimination under laws such as:

• The Civil Rights Act
• The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
• Immigration and Nationality Services Act
• Pregnancy Discrimination Act
• Americans with Disabilities Act
• California Fair Employment and Housing Act

There are many more relevant laws and provisions that serve to protect individuals from discrimination. Their enforcement depends on all people in American society refusing to engage in or tolerate discrimination. However, it is important to note that while Paul’s combat was triumphant it wasn’t easy because there was still a great concern about the conservatism on racial issues in the U.S. political and judicial systems, especially regarding the decrees of the conservative U.S. Supreme Court since the early 80s. In other words, there was a backward movement. Several major decisions in the mid- to late-1980s made it much more difficult (Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio 490 U.S. 642 (1989), is one good example which speaks volumes) for Blacks in order to address racial discrimination cases and have these issues recognized as what they are.

Mr. Paul and the three other African-Americans were forceful and assertive because their motives and their integrity were questioned. They are soldiers for the eradication of racism. Their employer accused them of being only after the money. Their pain was not acknowledged, foible settlements were offered which translate a lack of awareness of this grave situation. To their opponents, their battle was not about justice. This was their strategy. Witnesses who testified on behalf of the four former salesmen stated that various employees:

• Used racial epithets against them
• Steered customers to white salespeople
• Described themselves as “rednecks” (one of the managers also presented himself as a « redneck » from Georgia with a third-grade education). The plaintiffs were subjected daily to “redneck” humor
• Talked about family members who “don’t like blacks” and “used to burn crosses.”

According to the press, many of the complaints were aimed at Jack Brennen, the General Manager of Thomason Toyota of Gladstone. A dealership employee also intentionally steered a white customer away from one of the plaintiffs because the customer "was a redneck and didn't want to deal with him because he is black," according to witness statements. In this regard, the suit alleged the company allowed "racial discrimination in assignments, customer referrals or credit for sales," as well as " retaliating against the plaintiffs for opposing racial discrimination. Among the complainants, Barfield was being passed over for promotions or raises.

Racism and psychological violence are less visible phenomena than open retaliation. It is real, but covert or hidden. As a legal concept, discrimination is negative treatment of people based on their membership in a socially distinct group. Such groups include:

• Gender (male, female)
• Race
• Ethnicity
• National origin
• Religion
• Age
• Sexual preference
• Disability
• Legal status (e.g., non-citizen)

Discrimination can also be defined as having occurred when the civil rights of a person are denied or interfered with because of his or her membership in a particular group. The discrimination can occur in many different aspects of life, such as:

• Employment
• Housing
• Education
• College admission
• Lending, banking, consumer issues
• Public accommodations

Racial discrimination is a very complex and multifaceted issue, it is a question of abuse of power. This grave issue can lead people to depression. Some studies have showed that the psychological damage from any form of harassment can be permanent and might even lead to suicide in some cases. The federal court in Oregon sent a very strong message: harassment and discrimination in the work place are forbidden. In addition, the plaintiff's attorney, Aaron Baker, said the jury sent Asbury a clear message: "they need to treat everybody in our community the same." The court wanted to make a statement by punishing a nationwide dealership that had a laissez-faire attitude and unacceptable behaviours towards employees. Barfield, according to a document delivered to the court, was prepared to testify "regarding Mr. Brennen’s hostile comments stating that he would put a bullet in anyone's head who complains." In this regard, the dealership management was accused of failing to stop the racist comments.

There are many people experiencing racial discrimination in the workplace who suffer in silence. Kent Paul is not one of those people. He shares his pain and fought to seek justice. He broke the wall of silence by sharing his story. The readers can find information in the book which will help them deal more effectively with cases of harassment and the justice system. Kent Paul’s book is an incandescent and powerful look at the life of a young African-American who resisted the social, cultural and economic forces that prevent many Black men from being providers for their families. Through Paul’s work experience, the psychopathology of racial-harassment in the workplace is exposed in his book. Making history with Crosswords and Prozac is thoroughly informative with his experience of the contrast of St. Lucia and American societies, the struggles throughout the years. The difficulties encountered by the author shaped him. He and his family endured economic violence and privation but the experience only made them stronger. It is the beauty of their story.

Despite his struggles, Kent Paul didn’t abandon his family. His children are currently honor students. Often, when times get hard, families are susceptible to break up but Paul didn’t let that happen; he sought all the help required and was resourceful. He decided with his wife that they would stick to each other through this ordeal. Separation or divorce was not an option for the sake of their children. The narration in the book is lovely. It is seldom that one reads a book where a male author shares his innermost emotions so candidly without censure. He spoke from his heart. His authenticity is impressive and palpable. This brings a lot of originality to the book which you cannot put down once it is in your hands.

Making history with Crosswords and Prozac is the kind of book which stays with the reader beyond the last page. This is the first foreign exclusive interview. Mega Diversities had the great pleasure to talk to Kent Paul on May 16th 2011 who spoke mainly about his book and what came out of it. By Patricia Turnier, Editress-in-Chief and Legalist, LL.M.




P.T. I have to tell you something before I ask my first question. I love to travel, and for a while, I have always wanted to visit your home country. It seems so beautiful.

K.P. Well, thank you. It makes me feel honoured.

P.T. You were born and grew up in St. Lucia. Can you name us some of the words which best describe your country and its culture?

K.P. The history of my country goes like this: We were 7 times under English and times French rule. Both English and French passages had a tremendous effect on the culture. Saint Lucia's population is predominantly of African and mixed African-European descent, with a small Indo-Caribbean minority (3%). Members of other or unspecified ethnic groups, account for about 2% of the population. 95% of the citizens speak a patois, Creole (Kweyol) which is a kind of broken French. My country is a member of La Francophonie. It is important to mention that the predominant language in St. Lucia is English. So we have an Anglo-Saxon culture which translates itself through pragmatism with entrepreneurship, etc.  St. Lucia possesses beaches, volcanic island(s), rainforests, waterfalls, etc. We also have nice villages located on the coastline. Tourism and farming are predominant in the economy of the island. We love music, and since 1991 each May, St. Lucia has hosted an internationally renowned jazz festival. It has been 16 years I didn’t go back home, so it is a little bit difficult to be more specific. Nevertheless, I can say that we are friendly people. The citizens are pretty educated. In my family, several members are teachers and writers, others are in the medical field.

P.T. Before you came to the U.S., what was your perception of this country and its way of life?

K.P. I thought the world of this country. I wasn’t exposed to American culture thoroughly; I had a more superficial contact with it. I worked temporarily in a resort in St. Lucia where I met American tourists. I became intrigued with the culture, its people. With time, I became more involved with its values and so on. However, for a very long time in the U.S, I was aware of the existence of racial stigma. I was curious about it. I was 19 at the time. Later, when I encountered discrimination at work, I was torn. It was a dilemma for me and I asked myself if I should go back home. I realized that it is not the same thing to see a culture from outside and experiencing it from the inside.

P.T. What made you decide to share with the public your difficult work experience by writing a book? Was it a cathartic and healing experience for you?

K.P. I thought my experience as an immigrant was important to tell. I had a perception of America before I arrived and it changed after, throughout the years since I settled here. While I was going through the case, I always knew that I would share what happened to me on the job because it was inconceivable. Also, the goal is to encourage people to not stay silent about this issue. They can get help and seek justice. Staying silent gives power to abusive employers. So for me to pen the book was definitely a cathartic and healing experience. Social and economic mobility can still be difficult for minorities, it is a direct consequence of racial discrimination and I wanted the victims to know that solutions and remedies exist. When I penned my book, I knew I wasn’t alone going through this ordeal, and I also wanted the victims to be aware that there are out there people who had to work in a hostile and racially charged atmosphere.

P.T. I think that it is great and bold that you decided to open up about this very important issue. Now racism is more covert, likewise racial harassment or discrimination. Your book can be a vehicle to break the silence. It was very refreshing to read about an author who took the mask off.

K.P. Absolutely. Since my book is on the market many people confided in me. On a daily basis, people come up to me and share similar stories which happened to them. I realized more that there are a lot of people who are going through very difficult things at work and they are not willing to talk about it.

P.T. Talk to us about the meaning of your book’s title.

K.P. There are several things I have to say about this. First of all, I do crosswords daily. It is challenging and I love that. Actually, I have a passion for it. Maybe one day in the future, I will create a crossword class. Crossword puzzles gave my mind a break from trying to solve the confounding riddle of why this dark cloud had entered my life. Historically, it has been proven that crosswords can be effective. For instance, according to Times, “less than two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941,” Lester Markel, the Times’ Sunday editor, dashed off a memo to his superiors suggesting that they consider adding a puzzle to the Sunday newspaper. Adding crosswords to the paper allowed the readers to relax. Crosswords are a science because it requires research with the suffix and so on. The secret science of crossword puzzles is that they inspire people toward improvement. They provide sufficient shelter ahead of an upcoming storm to get your head into a game you can win if you just apply yourself. I had this axiom in my mind each morning. It helped me to grow stronger in both my inner ability to strategize and my mental moxie for resolve. Both were a prerequisite to survive the day I faced each morning during the awful years I went through. The conflicting lines that were crossed, the puzzlement my coworkers and I shared over the racist insults that were thrown at us in a dizzying hail day after day. After a while, I commenced framing all that frustration in the context of a puzzle, with many missing pieces that I believed would fit in time as the riddle of why this was happening would eventually be solved. I completed an entire crossword the day before the big verdict. It helped me to be mentally prepared for the outcome of the case. The name Prozac is part of the book title because I had this medication after I lost my job at the dealership. I was unemployed for a long time. We lost our house and things got out of control. I decided to get help and my physician prescribed this antidepressant. I was skeptical at first.

P.T. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is almost double compared to the rest of the U.S. nation and I believe that employers who harass minorities or any employee by creating a cutthroat work environment should be the ones on medication. Their unacceptable behaviour put you under tremendous stress and affected your health. They have no right to destabilize people. It is criminal.

K.P. Absolutely! In the black community, there is also a stigma associated with getting mental health care. We have to stop doing that to ourselves. There is a lot of pain because of what we went through historically. We can’t pretend that there is no suffering and deny it or mask the problem. We have to acknowledge that there are actual problems which exist.

P.T. If someone requires treatment, it is fine to get help. However, in cases of racial discrimination or harassment, systemic solutions are a must. As long as we focus only on the individual, institutional racism or structural iniquities won’t be questioned and addressed, it will continue to perpetuate itself. The status quo will remain. I believe also it would be even more effective if they made discrimination in housing, employment, or education a criminal offense and not just a civil one. Discrimination should be criminalized.

K.P. This is a very interesting point.

P.T. Did you want to add something else about your book’s title?

K.P. Yes, definitely. The making history part of the title refers to the $19 million verdict. It was a first in Oregon’s history. Our jurists told us it was an historic amount, so it was imperative to put this aspect of my story in the title. So, the historic amount, the crosswords and Prozac all intertwine in my life story. I tried to make the title as straightforward as I could. In other words, it had to be consistent with my experience. Actually, it is a friend of my wife who inspired me to find the title. We were brainstorming key words for the name of the book and he suggested to make it simple. I thought it was a great idea. The title tells the entirety of what I share in the book.

P.T. You talked a little bit about my next question beforehand. Nevertheless, can you share with our readers more specifically why you used the metaphor of the crossword puzzle to pen philosophically in your book the events of your life?

K.P. When I look at my life, I see it as different pieces which need to be put together. My outlook on life, I see it through the context of crosswords and Prozac. I do many crosswords daily. I wasn’t able to see things correctly (about my life) until I was able to put the pieces together. The pieces were mainly: Prozac, my family and the case. When I put these things together, it created for me a new outlook on life. When you put all the pieces in your life together it makes sense. 

P.T. Racial harassment can shatter the self-esteem of its victim. Do you think your strong St. Lucian identity helped you to not internalize all the negativity which comes with racial harassment?

K.P. Absolutely, I am the man of the sun [Laugh out loud]. I grew up in the Tropics. We are beautiful people inside and outside.

I always smile. I try as much as possible to see the glass half full and not half empty. I have a positive outlook on life. 

As you said, I have a strong identity, I haven’t been uprooted. Since my childhood, I was used to seeing my people in positions of authority so nobody could give me a sense of inferiority. No matter how hard things get, I can always say that I am from the West Indies and maybe one of these days I will go back there. This is a comfort in itself.

P.T. I believe that it makes a great difference when Black immigrants face racial harassment or discrimination as an adult compared to their kids who grew up in a Western society and have to face this ordeal since childhood.  As an adult you can’t be easily shattered and you have more resilience or defense mechanisms.

K.P. Definitely.

P.T. You started to suffer harassment in 2005 and you made grievances along with other colleagues. It was not the first time that Tomason AutoGroup received complaints for harassment and had to pay substantial monetary damages. How do you explain its relapses?

K.P. There were several incidents similar to mine (with Marcus Arnold, Carlos Barfield and Jahaeel Hardy) if I recall. There was a harassment case where eleven people were involved before I started working for the company. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was involved. The Thomason Auto Group in 2001 paid the 11 former employees $2.5 million after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission upheld claims of racial, sexual and religious harassment and found the company had tolerated a hostile work environment. In our case, the judge didn’t want us to use this decision as part of the jurisprudence which would have served as evidence. So, it was harder to prove that there was a behaviour of pattern. There are other things that we could have added to the case which would have made it stronger and bigger. I could go on and on.

P.T. If the case with the 11 former employees was used as evidence of a recurrence of racial harassment, it could have helped you to obtain a greater settlement.

K.P. Absolutely! I could add that there were even other similar cases (related to the race issue) going on at the same time as mine. One of them was about six African-Americans who sued separately (with their own attorney) the company. To go back to your question, the only thing that I can say is the company never learned their lesson. Unfortunately, throughout the years there was a laissez-faire attitude (with blindness, shortsightedness or in other words myopia). It was part of the organizational culture. They were the same offenders who were doing the harassment all over again. Some of the victims had to take time off, leave the state (some ended up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for instance) and came back to combat. To finish, I would say the only remedy so far is that the company agreed to provide mandatory annual discrimination and harassment training, and set up a 24-hour complaint hot line for employees.

P.T. Discrimination and harassment are not easy issues to argue and win in court because of many factors such as subjectivity, etc. Also, it can take a lot of time to settle, and meanwhile people might be subjected to threats by the employer. Throughout the process and its hurdles, how did you and the other plaintiffs remain confident that you would be victorious?

K.P. It wasn’t easy. The burden of proof was on us. Nevertheless, we supported each other, we got more than 250 signatures and affidavits. We received in the past offers of ridiculous amounts as settlement, such as 60,000$ for the four complainants. Of course, we refused, but it required a lot of patience and energy. We believed in our case and we wanted the employer to know that their behaviour was unacceptable. Our struggle was an act of deterrent. This is what kept us going and we knew we would be triumphant despite the hurdles.

P.T. What is the most important thing that you learned from your painful work experience and the long fight that followed?

K.P. [Silence]. I would say that I learned to never take anything for granted. You should always cover your bases because I strongly believe that if we didn’t have the documentation, we would have been lost. It would have been their words against ours. I found out also that it is important to do your homework. We learned the hard way. You have to shop for your attorney. You don’t just pick any jurist on the street. It is imperative to choose someone who really has your best interest in mind. At the beginning, we didn’t have the right attorney. Actually, our case almost got dismissed from the court system. At one time, we called the clerk who let us know that some documentation which should have been prepared by our attorney was not sent. We had only one week to correct this situation. During our ordeal we previously had two other lawyers that we had to fire for incompetency; they were not completing the proper paperwork, etc. It was a mistake to hire these jurists, because of them the case needed to be reassessed. We had to hire the lawyers who had our best interest. It took time and it was painful. We needed to look fast for new attorneys. So, I learned that it is best to have a list of trustworthy and qualified jurists before you get into any trouble. It saves time and it results in less anxiety.

In my book I talk about the “remitter concept.” This is something else very important that I learned in my legal battle. The remitter in law is a restoration as of to a previous right. It is a process which allows the judge to say that the amount is too excessive and he can decide another amount for each plaintiff. A lot of people don’t know that the judge has that one power. In our case he applied that process and he asked for a settlement offer with the company after the trial. With an amount of $19 million, it is not recommended to go for an appeal because it takes a very long time. We had a specific amount for punitive damages and for working in a hostile environment. We signed the confidentiality agreement about the final amount.

P.T. What message do you want the readers to take away from your book?

K.P. To fight until the end! We had opportunities to settle our case but it wasn’t worth it. We wanted the court to send a strong message that what we went through was totally unacceptable and that a forcible sentence was required. We don’t regret that we fought until the end because the verdict was much more rewarding. I know that the process can be hard, heavy and draining. It is tempting to quickly see the end of the tunnel, but I believe that it is worthwhile to combat until the end. In other words, it is important not to give up. If you quit, you lose. I would like to add that it is important to get support, especially if the harassers intimidate you. This translates into fear on their part.

P.T. What has been the public response so far to your book?

K.P. I have had positive responses. The public is usually inspired by people who stand up. It is a personal story and I wanted the readers to know about my legal journey, among other things, through my eyes. I would like to add that my children wanted to go to the Virgin Islands for a year and this is where I started to write the book. We came back and stayed in Houston, Texas where there is a big African-American population. I thought it would be a great place to market the book so we decided to move here.

P.T. You know there is an important thing that I would like to say. I am an avid reader and I believe it is the first time in my life that I read a book written by a male who is so open and unafraid to share his feelings in-depth. I wouldn’t be surprised if your female readers were quite pleased with this.

K.P. Yes, I get that response a lot [Laughs]. People are not used to reading a thorough personal story from an African-American male.

P.T. I would say from any male. Men, culturally, have been conditioned to not share their feelings since childhood and I think it can be detrimental to them and painful.

K.P. Well, I wanted to bring that across because this is what I am. I think it is important for any gender not to hide or ignore emotions. My book is also a legacy for my children. I think that older generations didn’t necessarily share what they were really going through. I believe it is wealth to transmit to the younger generations our life experience and the familial history.

P.T. Can you share with us your future projects?

K.P. I would like to pen another book. This time, it would be different. I am interested to add dialogue. It would be a kind of sequel or a follow-up of my first book with less prose. There was a lot of conversation behind the story (with lawyers…) that I narrated in Making history with Crosswords and Prozac. I would like also to come up with more solutions.

P.T. This would be awesome. I think that what helped you a lot in your case is the fact that you had three other plaintiffs with you. Most of the time, people are alone in their fight and it makes the case weak. Also, I think that in the workplace if teams could assess their managers, it would counterbalance the way to do things. A group assessment would be important because there are bosses who consider their team members as subordinates and not collaborators. In this regard, it wouldn’t be just one person. I mean in this instance the boss would have all the power (to make a biased evaluation of an employee for instance) which in cases of psychological harassment (in the work place) is obviously misused.

K.P. Yes, definitely. You are absolutely right! I totally agree. I have another solution too. It comes from a television reality show. I am talking about Undercover Boss on ABC. It is by the way my favourite show. For the readers who are not familiar with this American program, it concerns CEOs of huge companies who go undercover as an ordinary employee to have a more concrete idea about what it is going on in their workplace. They can see the actual problems that exist inside their companies. It is a way to take the pulse of their employees. Of course, this works only if we are talking about genuine bosses who have the best interest in heart to insure a healthy work environment.

P.T. I know in the U.S. there are also external undercover investigators from labor organizations who get involved. In addition, it could be very interesting to make on a large scale a report which would describe psychological harassment encountered by people in many fields to obtain a more thorough grasp of this issue. Actually, this process could even take the form of a documentary and I hope that we will see this in the future. It would be interesting to see also movies which raise this very important issue. Who knows? Maybe one day, we will see a film which comes to fruition about your story with the other three men.

K.P. Speaking of a movie, I am taking steps to see in Hollywood if a film can be made about our story.

P.T. This is really interesting! I strongly believe it is a great story for a movie!

K.P. I have a brief adaptation of what the movie would look like. In other words, I have the basic framework. I wouldn’t mind to playing myself [Laughs].

P.T. And if it wouldn’t be possible to play yourself, who would you like to portray you?

K.P. I like Will Smith a lot. He’s a great actor and he’s about my age, so, I could definitely see him in the role. However, I believe that to play my part it has to be someone who has a Caribbean accent.

P.T. I don’t think that you have a marked or visible West Indies accent.

K.P. Really? I am surprised because people tell me this often around here and maybe it was one of the reasons also that I had some harassment.

P.T. What are the other three former plaintiffs doing with their lives since the settlement?

K.P. I haven’t heard from them for a while. We are kind of disconnected because I moved. They live in Oregon and I am in Texas now. I only communicate sometimes with them through Facebook. I know that one of them is involved in a restaurant that he opened. The last time I heard from Carlos, I learned that he purchased some stocks in General Motors. I don’t know what happened to him because not too long after General Motors filed for bankruptcy. The youngest among all of us, had a dad heavily involved in the case. His father is a pastor and is responsible of one of the biggest churches in Oregon. I can’t say what he’s doing because after the case we lost touch.

P.T. I know that it is important for you and your wife to educate and consult in matters pertaining to race and personal wellness in hopes of eliminating racism and discrimination. How do you concretely intend to do that?

K.P. I am going to give you a little family background regarding my wife. She is sensitive about these issues; her mother is gay. Her mother had to deal with a lot of discrimination for so long. My wife is of Philippines origin and in her culture they don’t speak openly about homosexuality. So, it has been very difficult for her. These situations are very dear to my wife’s heart and mine. We are against discrimination encountered by people of every hue, culture and sexual orientation.

I am interested concretely in going to universities and becoming a spokesperson where I will cover the discrimination and racism themes. In fact, my spouse and I intend to make people aware of these issues, educate and especially consult in matters pertaining to race and personal wellness, hoping to stomp out racism and discrimination.

Most Americans are aware of our relatively recent history of discrimination in which African-Americans were not allowed to eat at the same restaurants, live in the same neighbourhoods, or attend the same schools as Whites. Discrimination against women in the workplace is also a familiar scenario. The rights of the physically handicapped, of gays and bisexual people, of Native Americans, of Jews and people of other religious denominations, of older employees, and of illegal immigrants historically have all been denied or infringed upon at one time or another in the United States, in both individual cases and on a vast scale. Unfortunately, discrimination is still a pervasive problem in America, as it is around the world. Examples are numerous and take many forms: an individual can be denied a mortgage loan, a promotion, admission to a school, or denied a job simply because of his or her gender, race, age, disability, etc. My spouse and I want to do our part to teach the victims how they can become victorious in these painful situations.

P.T. To conclude, what advice do you have for people who are working in a hostile environment and are being discriminated against?

K.P. Stay strong! It is the most important thing. Perseverance also is crucial. You should talk to somebody about it. In my own experience, I feel that my most strength came when I started to talk about what was going on with the other colleagues who were plaintiffs. I didn’t feel alone and it was a great source of comfort. When you don’t talk about it and you remain silent, it gives power to the persecutors.

P.T. Thanks Mr. Paul for this great interview! I am convinced that your story will inspire other people going through similar situation, to not suffer in silence and have the courage to fight for social justice. It is unacceptable that 98% of racial discrimination cases never make it to a courtroom. A host of complaints being filed can eventually lead to new legislation being passed. So, I also hope that your historic win will advanced race relations in the workplace and allow minorities to have their real place, not be tokens. Too many talents and intellects or brain trusts are being wasted at the nation’s expense. To paraphrase Dr. MLK: People should be judged on the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.


An excerpt of Making history with Crosswords and Prozac (p. 1-2):


Life is a quilt with a wild, weaving, wandering patchwork of crossing paths, some that intersect by fate’s design (as with meeting my wife), others indiscriminately but with such consequence that you can’t help but fell it must have been for a reason. My story is one of the latter, a collision of ambition and intolerance, a puzzle whose pieces would only fit the sort of metaphysical framework that comes in the form of a crossword puzzle. According to PBS in the book Faith and Reason, “Metaphysical studies generally seek to explain inherent or universal elements of reality which are not easily discovered or experienced in our everyday life. As such, it is concerned with explaining the features of reality that exist beyond the physical world of our immediate senses.”

In the series of events that led to me being in the middle of such a lawsuit, there were many key words I should have been picking up on but couldn’t because of my naiveté to the existence of racism as a feature of my reality. Nor of the depths of prejudice, which it would turn out were rooted far beyond my immediate sense of just how deep that hatred ran. I grew up on a Caribbean island with very few White people, but we were never raised to think of their absence as a positive or negative aspect to our way of life. Later, when I worked at a resort and experienced my first contact with white tourists, they were wonderfully friendly, considerate, respectful people. The same was my experience living in Houston, Texas. It wasn’t until I arrived in the traditionally liberal Pacific Northwest city of Portland, Oregon, that I had my first exposure to the sad reality of racism as part of American culture.”


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