Five Metro-North employees made complaints to the agency about a colleague wearing blackface to a 2013 costume party, but he was nevertheless promoted to his role as "one of the highest-ranking supervisors" a year later, according to an NBC New York investigation.
MTA chief Joe Lhota has since responded to the report, calling Richard Ranallo's actions "reprehensible" and emphatically said that "wearing blackface is racist."
"Those who decide to wear blackface are maintaining I believe a legacy of marginalizing and dehumanizing African Americans," Lhota said. ""The employee in question was, and still is, represented by a union. We will work with our labor partners to ensure that all understand what our expectations are and that actions like this, they understand, are unacceptable and that employees that participate in actions like this - and those employees who cover up actions like this - have no place at the MTA."
Randy Morgan, who worked under Ranallo, was one of the people who complained to the agency's diversity office about his boss's outfit, which was for a private Halloween party. "He's dressed up in blackface, which is abhorrent to many people on many levels," Morgan told NBC New York. "It's kind of like wearing a KKK outfit, just kind of screams at you... Racism isn't something that people wear proudly. It's kind of insidious."
Ranallo's only reprimand from Metro-North was five days of "sensitivity training." He was subsequently promoted in 2014, "managing even more workers and keeping his pay of more than $200,000 a year."
Ranallo refused to comment—telling NBC New York he had to "catch the train."
— Andrew Siff (@andrewsiff4NY) June 19, 2018
The new Metro-North president, Cathy Rinaldi, who said she was "disturbed" by the pictures, wasn't able to explain why Ranallo wasn't fired, telling NBC New York for their Tuesday broadcast, "This is five years ago. I really can't look back and second-guess the decisions that were made at this time."
However, on Wednesday, Rinaldi launched a review of the matter and said, "What I need to do going forward is making sure that Mr. Ranallo - who still works for me, and I’m very concerned about that - he needs to have the training to treat the people he works with every day fairly, appropriately, and with respect. And if he doesn’t have that training I need to make sure he gets that training."
Is sensitivity training really going to solve things? Would anyone want to continue as a client of Aaron Schlossberg, aka the racist lawyer who threatened to call ICE on restaurant workers speaking Spanish? Schlossberg claims that the video didn't show the "real" him, but does anyone really believe that?
In today's timely #RebelConvo column, Rebecca Carroll asks, "Would you hire a racist?"