The mantra for Mercedes-Benz is “The Best or nothing” but a former employee is leaning strongly towards nothing. Jeffrey Turner is a former sales manager at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Lafayette, IN. In a lawsuit he alleges that he was “fired in retaliation for complaining about the owner’s repeated use of the N-word, including boasting about systematically overcharging African American customers for vehicles, referring to it as ‘n***er scalping.'”
According to Turner’s attorney, he was offended by what he saw and heard at the dealership and immediately reported it to Mercedes-Benz of North America. Shortly thereafter, Turner was fired for insubordination. Turner alleges that during his time at the dealership he was subjected to a hostile working environment. In a press release Turner’s attorney stated that, “His race was a regular subject of unwelcome verbal harassment, being referred to as the ‘favorite n***er.’ He was also a target for anger over unrelated racial issues.” The dealership owner’s attorney has responded, saying his clients used the phrase, “an N-word in the wood pile,” one time in a meeting, but that it was not directed at Turner. Turner alleges that others heard the racial slurs but said “he’s old and he was raised in a different generation than we are. He didn’t mean anything by it.”
Turner alleges that despite being a top performer and earning several awards, he was terminated for reporting the egregious racism he alleges took place at the dealership. Further, he is alleging that the dealership practiced “n***er scalping,” or systemically overcharging black customers were systemically overcharged. All of this is unfortunate but should not, for Black people, be surprising. Further, the urge to respond with anger or a mode of “payback” is natural but not necessarily beneficial. This entire matter, if what is alleged is true, is a routine example of what happens when Black people lack viable institutions and as a result, are left with the choice of working for someone else’s institution and hoping for good outcomes. At the very root of it, this is the problem Black people face and no amount of “boycotting” will fix it — it is up to Black people to build and support Black institutions.
If all that is alleged is true, Mr. Turner is right to be outraged. If all that is alleged is true, Black people should resist the urge to boycott and channel that energy into building. Mr. Turner’s story, after all, is but one of thousands across the country. Most of those stories will never be heard because the victims can’t or don’t hire attorneys or perhaps the stories aren’t juicy enough to make headlines. But the stories are real and they are plentiful. The only resolution is to build, not boycott.