Denver civil rights activist Alvertis Simmons thought of his granddaughter when he saw the racist meme that former AT&T president Aaron Slator sent to a coworker, a message that ultimately got him fired.
“When I saw that little black baby snapping her fingers and they put that caption, that really hurt me,” said Simmons. “They called a little black baby nigga.'”
Slator texted the image of the child from his work phone with his own comment: “An oldie but a goodie.” It has now been reported that AT&T covered for Slator for over a year before an employee’s discrimination lawsuit revealed the texts.
“They thought nobody was going to get wind of it, that it wouldn’t be a big deal to the black community,” said Simmons. “But we are livid, upset, hurt and angry. This is disrespectful, slanderous and wrong.”
Simmons has planned a Saturday protest at the AT&T store in Cherry Creek, at 2 p.m., where demonstrators will publicly announce that they’re canceling their AT&T services.
“We want to stop the systemic growth of hate against black babies and our black community,” said Simmons. “We’re saying to AT&T, ‘Take responsibility for this. Firing this guy is not enough.”
The $100 million lawsuit against Slator and several other AT&T executives is primarily about Slator’s hiring practices. In hiring an assistant, Slator allegedly passed over Knoyme King, a 50-year old black woman with 30 years of experience, for a younger woman, Susie Bercerra, with whom he was having an affair.
AT&T and DirectTV are jointly involved in a separate $10 billion lawsuit for allegedly not contracting with African-American owned media companies.
Simmons said he thinks it’s time for AT&T to show the black community that they’re taking these allegations seriously not just by firing an executive, but by actively working to fight racism as a community partner.
“They can sit down with our community and make a difference,” said Simmons. “They could help us with this gang violence, give our youth something to do, sponsor some kids, give them direction, whether that’s youth camps or getting more computers into the community.”
Simmons asked AT&T for records of its community work in Colorado, and the company told him that it has given $1.8 million to charities in the state.
“Only about $1,500 went to the black community and that was four years ago,” said Simmons. “They gave our community $1,500 for a chicken dinner.”
As of publication, AT&T could not be reached for comment.
Update: An AT&T spokesman said they recently sat down with Mr. Simmons and Rev. Holmes to hear their concerns. “We reiterated that there is no place for demeaning behavior at AT&T and we think our reputation on diversity speaks louder than the actions of one individual,” he wrote.
That reputation includes AT&T ranking among several best-of lists for diversity from outlets like Black Employment & Entrepreneur Journal, Diversity Inc. and Black Enterprise.
Photo by Mike Mozart.