KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Equity director fired after racist comment about Mexicans

Jun 5, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Jun 6, 2023, 10:14 am

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Former Washington state Equity Director Karen A. Johnson was fired in May. (Courtesy of the Washington Office of Equity)

(Courtesy of the Washington Office of Equity)

Washington state’s first Office of Equity (OOE) director was ousted after complaints of racist remarks about Mexicans. She was even accused of using a “White supremacy” metaphor.

Karen Johnson, Ph.D., — who lists her pronouns as she/her/Beloved — was unceremoniously fired by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 17. The OOE is tasked with fighting systemic racism Democrats pretend permeates government institutions.

The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH was the first to break the story of Johnson’s dismissal. The reason behind the termination has become more clear after a local newspaper noted that Johnson faced an investigation for workplace conduct. The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has since obtained the investigation’s findings.

On the one hand, Johnson is a victim of hypersensitive activist employees — the very type of person you’d expect to want to work within the Office of Equity. She should have seen their complaints coming. On the other hand, Johnson failed to play by the rules she wanted to be implemented on state employees. She deserved to be terminated.

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Complaints about Johnson’s management are mostly frivolous

The state retained MFR Law Group PLLC to conduct an independent investigation of Johnson’s alleged conduct. Their investigation said seven current and former members of OOE staff complained of workplace conduct and insensitive comments by Johnson.

The bulk of the complaints were frivolous and focused on Johnson’s management style. Complainants said Johnson didn’t provide clarity for the work they were meant to do, and that she micromanaged staff. Others complained that the workload forced them to sacrifice a healthy “work/life balance.”

But there were also complaints about Johnson’s “biased and insensitive conduct” concerning her language and treatment of employees. Some are legitimate complaints, while others are ludicrous.

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Johnson doesn’t speak like an anti-racist activist

One white employee said “they perceived to be evidence of bias against Mexicans,” according to the report.

The staffer claimed Johnson referenced a “self-identified” Mexican by saying, “This may take some time for me because I generally distrust Mexican people. Mexican people have the option of being White when it is convenient for them.”

Another employee, who is Hispanic, complained that Johnson created an “us vs. them” environment. This unidentified employee alleged Johnson singled them out as not having “lived experiences” when it comes to racism, comparing them to white co-workers.

The report said Johnson was criticized for saying she “rules with brass knuckles and a velvet glove.” An employee complained, “that this metaphor was associated with White supremacy because of its violence.” The metaphor is, in fact, not associated with white supremacy.

Johnson was also accused of gender stereotyping and bias. The report said one white employee was told not to wear her hair in a braid because it was “cultural appropriation.” Another complained that she was singled out for being overweight. The report said Johnson asked the employee, “You want to be married and have a family, don’t you? If so, you have to take care of you.” She also allegedly told two women to wear lipstick, though no context was offered.

Johnson on the record

Johnson met with investigators one time, but refused a follow-up meeting.

Investigators say Johnson spent a chunk of the first and only interview talking about her professional background before addressing the bulk of the complaints. The report stated Johnson complained that “the staff she was given did not have the skill set needed to operate with emotional maturity.” She said they were “passive-aggressive” and withheld information that Johnson should have known.

But a second interview was a “non-negotiable” to Johnson. She said she would not participate in “triangulating behavior” where she cannot work through conflict directly with the complainants.

“My truth is that I am more than willing to make myself available to meet with you and the person(s) bringing the allegation(s)/concern(s), as is my custom. Seeking reconciliation is more important to me than seeking to prove who is right,” she wrote in an email.

Johnson is the victim and the bad guy

Johnson’s alleged comment about Mexicans is, of course, objectively racist to normal people. But it’s not racist to far-Left, anti-racist activists. It’s a common belief and criticism.

Johnson was being racist in a way that’s typical of the Radical Left. Her complaint centers around Mexicans being too “white” — that they can hide their racial minority status by looking white. The only thing surprising in the investigation is that the far-Left staff claimed offense to this. They almost certainly believe it. But it’s also true that Johnson is likely correct that her office staff lack emotional maturity and was passive-aggressive toward her. But she should have known that.

The very people who would likely find interest in a job with the Office of Equity are the type of hypersensitive activists who pretend a “brass knuckles” metaphor is white supremacy. Complaints about “us vs. them” are equally contrived given the prevailing thinking amongst anti-racist Progressives is whites vs. the so-called “BIPOC” community. When you blame white people for all societal ills, it creates an “us vs. them” mentality.

This office is designed to find racism in everything, while pretending to uproot systemic racism. I suspect Johnson just wasn’t a good boss and people were irked by her management style. It’s easy to point to the racist comments, but I doubt many in that office actually viewed the comments as truly offensive.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Equity director fired after racist comment about Mexicans