Tacoma, Washington (KING5) — A Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) office supervisor was caught spreading racist pictures without repercussions.
The supervisor, who is Caucasian, works out of the Tacoma DSHS office, where they give food, cash and medical assistance to the needy.
In October, he posted two racist pictures on Instagram.
One depicted an African American baby eating watermelon in a bucket. The other was a picture with the text: “I’m not racist. Racism is a crime. And Crime is a thing for Black people.”
Workers who fear retaliation and don’t want their names used tell KING 5 they were disgusted with the images. The pictures prompted a mandatory meeting last week, which they describe was just as appalling.
“They had the African Americans that felt offended stand in a circle around him and tell them how they felt,” said one employee.
“People were yelling, people were crying, trying to leave, but they couldn’t,” said another employee.
While workers don’t condone the supervisor’s behavior, they’re concerned with how managers handled the situation.
“It reminded everyone of a 1700 witch hunt. It was completely disrespectful and humiliating,” said a third employee.
Washington Federation of State Employees (AFSCME), which represents the supervisor, calls the actions “poor taste” and doesn’t condone racism. But according to AFSCME Public Affairs Director Tim Welch, the supervisor sent out the pictures on his own time using his own technology. It also didn’t affect his work. Welch says the union plans to fight any discipline to the supervisor.
A former aid to the Governor’s Jay Inslee’s Office says that on state time or not, this is a serious issue. According to the former aid, the supervisor should be reassigned or if non-union, terminated.
“I think it’s vulgar,” said Jonathan Johnson, a spokesman for the Tacoma NAACP.
According to the Tacoma NAACP, ethics of public employees should never be “off the clock.” While mostly employees have seen the pictures, clients are also impacted.
“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 5 contacted DSHS asking for comment on if there’s an internal investigation and if the supervisor faces corrective action. A spokesperson responded: “This is an personnel matter and I’m not at liberty to discuss it.”