What would you do if you woke up one morning with an extra $365 million? It’s the kind of question generally reserved for lottery winners—or heirs to generational fortunes like that of the Walton or Hilton families. For the latter, there probably isn’t a good answer to the question because transformative wealth means something different to the privileged scions of billionaires.
For people in the former category, the answers probably fall along the lines of “quit my job,” “pay off my debt,” or “buy a new house.” All of which are reasonable responses, if only every one of them wasn’t fraught with the possibility of experiencing more of the degradation that led to the windfall in the first place. That’s how I imagine things might feel for Jennifer Harris, a Black woman and former FedEx corporate sales worker who just won a record $365 million verdict from the jury in the discrimination lawsuit she filed against her employer of a dozen years.
In Harris’ own words, the treatment she received at FedEx was “next level” anti-Blackness from her peers and supervisors, although the Dallas Morning News described the verdict as nuanced. Jurors disagreed on whether the company actually committed racial discrimination but found that the company did retaliate against Harris but demoting and ultimately firing her after she filed internal complaints about discriminatory treatment. FedEx is appealing, and Harris’s attorneys expect the company to keep the case tied up so long that she won’t get that big windfall for years.
Even if she got the cash tomorrow, though, how sweet could the victory be? If Harris’ plans for FedEx’s dirty money involved any of the hypothetical (but realistic) answers above, how could it not only remind her of what she endured to get that cash? Plan to pay off those student loans? Fantastic, and hopefully you’re able to do so without guilt about the fact that millions of other borrowers—disproportionately Black—just had the possibility of student debt relief from the federal government snatched away by a federal judge and a coalition of fake “job creators” who don’t care how badly they damage the economy or the hopes of actual entrepreneurs in the process.
Allocating some of that scratch for a new crib? Great but if you plan on selling it anytime soon, take down any family pics and that Wakanda Forever poster poster in the home theatre, because appraisers tend to aim low when they put a value on houses with visible signs they’re owned by Black folks. Such is the stealthy nature of structural racism: often, to score a victory over it in one place is to be confronted by it elsewhere, a reminder that bigotry doesn’t just live at the job that treated you poorly, it travels. It follows. It shows up wherever you are.