It’s a touchy situation at a Washington state agency that gives food, cash and medical assistance to the needy.
Turns out a supervisor at the state’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) was caught spreading racist images. The supervisor, who is white, works in the Tacoma DSHS office and posted a pair of images to Instagram last October.
One depicts an black infant eating watermelon in a bucket, according to KING-TV in Seattle.
The other is a photograph with text added: “I’m not racist: Racism is a crime, and crime is a thing for black people.”
DSHS employees who fear retaliation and didn’t want their names revealed told KING that the images disgusted them and that there was mandatory meeting last week over the incident.
Some workers said the meeting was equally difficult to stomach.
“They had the African-Americans that felt offended stand in a circle around him and tell them how they felt,” one employee told KING.
“People were yelling, people were crying, trying to leave, but they couldn’t,” another employee added.
“It reminded everyone of a 1700 witch hunt,” a third employee told KING. “It was completely disrespectful and humiliating.”
Washington Federation of State Employees (AFSCME), which represents the supervisor, called his actions “poor taste.” But according to AFSCME Public Affairs Director Tim Welch, the supervisor posted the images on his own time using his own technology and it also didn’t affect his work. Welch says he plans to fight any discipline to the supervisor.
A former aid to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said regardless the supervisor’s actions are a serious issue and that he should be reassigned — or if non-union, terminated.
Jonathan Johnson, a Tacoma NAACP spokesman, told KING that the posted images are “vulgar.”
“How do you come to a person that’s already said ‘I don’t really think you’re human’? We as a people say, ‘You know, I know you have a right to do what you want to do, but is that appropriate,’” said Johnson.
KING contacted DSHS asking for updates on the internal investigation and if the supervisors is facing corrective action, but a spokesperson called it a personnel matter and didn’t comment.