From the linked piece, in Cynthia McKinney’s words:
It is the contention of Leonard Rowe, perhaps the best-known and most successful of all Black concert promoters, that the regular use of these words [racist slurs] by powerful Hollywood executives is a telling indicator of Hollywood’s pervasively racist attitudes toward Blacks, an attitude that produced illegal trust-like business practices that essentially made Black concert promoters extinct.
How could these particular Hollywood executives do that?
According to music industry veterans, once a Black entertainer “crossed over” to a White audience, Black concert promoters were almost never allowed to promote that entertainer again. Moreover, according to Rowe, not once was a Black concert promoter allowed to promote a White entertainer. According to Rowe, this collusion to fix profits effectively denied the Black community the spin-off economy associated with concerts and concert promotions, and the multiplier effect of dollars turning over in the Black community.
Someone presented evidence to me that was just presented to District Judge Robert P. Patterson and Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska of the Southern District of New York: a summary of the racially-charged words that were regularly used by these particular Hollywood executives: “n***er,” “spade,” “colored,” “monkey,” “n***a,” “uncle tom,” “spook,” and “coon.” It makes for depressing reading: page after page after page after page, the evidence provided to me shows the last name of the particular executive and the number of times that person used one of the above words in e-mail traffic. It is 18 pages, with two pages mysteriously missing, of heartbreak where specifically the word “n***er” is used hundreds of times. […]
To think that this is the way these Hollywood executives view their African-American clients is not only appalling, but represents more than a virtual throwback to the ignominious days of a Southern Plantation. According to Marcus Washington, who worked at William Morris, that company client list has included Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg, Lauryn Hill, Rihanna, Outkast, Trya Banks, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Whitney Houston, Maxwell, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Spike Lee, Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Usher, Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, and Denzel Washington to name a few.
The evidence of how particular Hollywood executives referred to their own clients is available for anyone interested in seeing it. Just click here.
This won’t surprise anyone who’s been observing showbiz for any length of time, but it’s good to shine a light on these matters in a courtroom. The definition of “racism” which I use, which has recently been circulating on tumblr, mentions “economic structures” as a critical component, and in this case we see explicit collusion between white executives to suck money out of the Black community without feeding it back in, so that in effect the consumption of this media is a net monetary loss for the community. In this system, a few Black entertainers can get individually rich, but the Black community itself is barred from the systemic self-multiplying creation of wealth (this being the essential dynamic of debt-driven capitalism) through explicitly racist business practices. It’s true in showbiz, and it’s true in many other fields of endeavour.
McKinney also emphasizes that Washington’s case against William Morris has been almost impossible to take to a court of law, because of a clause in their employment contract which forfeits their right to take William Morris to court and compels all issues into binding arbitration. If you live in the United States you have almost certainly signed similar binding arbitration clauses as well. If you want to know more about this particular issue, I recommend the “Hot Coffee” episode of Democracy Now!