Lawton_The Lawton branch of the NAACP is deeming an incident of noose hanging at the Silverline Plastic Factory in Lawton a federal hate crime.
Royce Singleton, an African-American worker, found a noose hanging above his desk last week, and on Monday Lawton NAACP President Arlie Hampton spoke with 7News about the disheartening event. "It's both shocking and saddening that such an alleged racial display is reported in our city in the 21st Century," she said.
Hampton says that it's the goal of the Lawton chapter to seek clarity and raise awareness of this matter. Royce Singleton is seeking legal advice with regard to the incident.
Singleton filed a racial harassment complaint with his employer, Silver-Line Plastics, after he found the noose hanging over his work station. He captured it on video with his cellphone camera when it happened at the end of April. The company told Singleton and us that they investigated the incident. But, Singleton was not satisfied with their response, so he contacted 7NEWS.
When he first saw the noose, Singleton said he complained to his supervisor, but no one did anything. He continued to work under the noose for a little over four hours. He took a water break, and when he came back, the noose was gone. But, later Singleton found it in his desk. "I was going to get some tape out of the drawer and I found it there," Singleton said. "I thought 'You've got to be joking, it can't be happening again.' So, whoever took it down should have at least taken it away."
Singleton says this wasn't the first racial harrassment he's faced. He says he hears racist jokes all the time, and a few days before the noose incident, another silver-line supervisor jokingly approached him with a pocketknife. "Poking me in the stomach with it. I didn't bleed or anything, but it was just an awkward situation and he's a supervisor that I don't even know," Singleton said. "Right after that, about 20 minutes later, he came looking for the same knife, saying he was gonna 'cut a coon.'"
Singleton's mother, Carletha, says this brings up negative memories from her childhood, and was amazed things like this still happen. "It really hit home, everything up until now was just things I read in the news, or seen on TV," she said. "But this really hit home, and it's still happening. It's 2008 and we really haven't progressed that much."
She worries another practical joke might go too far and potentially cause a dangerous accident. "Nobody should be subjected to that at the workplace, regardless of race, gender, age, religious beliefs. Nobody should be subjected to that, it's appalling."
We tried to find out exactly how the company handled the complaint, but they didn't give us any details--just a one-paragraph response that said, in part, "The company's practice is to conduct an immediate investigation and, when warranted, appropriate corrective action is taken, as it was in this case."
They also sent an apology letter to Singleton which said they believed the incident was a joke.
Singleton's mother told us that he has not returned to work since we spoke with him last thursday, and is currently under doctor's care. Singleton told us then he's been physically ill and is having a hard time getting over the experience.