MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — There are shocking allegations of racial discrimination in a Memphis cotton gin. Two men filed charges against the Atkinson Cotton Warehouse.
They’re accusing their former supervisor of calling them “monkeys” and telling them the water fountain and microwave were for white people only.
The cotton industry’s history reminds some people of slavery. Antonio Harris and Marrio Mangrum say their former supervisor was stuck in the past.
“He would be like, ‘You need to think like a white man,'” said Mangrum
“He pulled his pants down in front of us and told us to kiss his white tail ,” said Harris.
He said after months of racist comments and feeling powerless, he decided to use his phone as a weapon to fight back. He recorded his attempt to drink water from a water fountain in the warehouse office.
“Hey!” says the supervisor in the recording.
“What?” asked Harris.
“I need to put a sign here that says `white people only.'”
Harris also recorded his attempt to use the microwave:
“I am going to use the microwave,” said Harris in the recording.
“Hell no!” said the supervisor.
“Why can’t I use the microwave, man?”
“Because you are not white.”
“As a white man, we don`t even let Larry use it.”
“Larry has been there 10 to 20 years and he is a black guy also,” Mangrum told WREG.
In the recording, the supervisor also talks about the days when black and whites were kept separate.
“Back then, nobody thought anything about it. Now everybody is made to where to think it’s bad,” says the supervisor in the recording.
Thirty seconds later in the same recording:
“Put your sign on the wall then, because I am feeling to drink it,” said Harris. “What would they do when they catch me drinking your water?”
“That`s when we hang you,” said the supervisor.
“I think about this every day, every day of my life,” said Harris.
Harris and Mangrum filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, which is now mediating with the cotton’s gin owner about a possible settlement. Harris says it’s not about the cotton industry.
“I worked for another company for 12 years and they never did something like that to me.”
He says its about a man who left lasting and painful memories for two workers just trying to support their families. The owner of the cotton gin said he had no comment, but did say he outsources the management at that warehouse.
WREG tried to contact that outsourcing company and they haven’t called back. WREG also called the warehouse, and a worker said that supervisor still works there but is on vacation.