President-elect Donald Trump invites more controversy into his administration with the addition of an executive whose company is being sued for racial discrimination as well as hiring white thugs to assault Black patrons of a club he owned.
Reed Cordish is an executive of the Cordish Companies, a real estate business based in Baltimore, Maryland, run by his family. He’s also the president of Entertainment Concepts Investors, a subsidiary that manages restaurants, bars, and clubs across America. ECI’s biggest holdings reside in Kansas City, Missouri, where he and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, partnered up to build the city’s “Power and Light District.”
The district consists of a half-million-square-foot shopping and entertainment center in downtown Kansas City. However, the area also has garnered a bad reputation among the city’s Black community as being a place fraught with racism. Currently, there are two independent lawsuits against the Cordish Companies which claim the area is known throughout the local Black community as the “Power and White District,” because of the owner’s alleged history of racial discrimination.
Dante Combs and Adam Williams are the lead plaintiffs in a $5 million class-action racial discrimination suit filed in 2014. Cordish won an initial ruling in federal district court, but both plaintiffs are in the process of appeal that decision.
The men claim that they were beaten and harassed by white male employees of Cordish’s company as part of their alleged efforts to “lighten up” its clubs by running off Black customers. Christina Martinez, a former floor manager at the Tengo club, one of Cordish’s properties, said that “Reed Cordish’s code words for blacks was ‘urbans’ or ‘Canadians.’” Martinez claims that other employees were openly encouraged to isolate and identify Black customers using code words.
According to Martinez, Jake Miller, vice president of ECI, “did not want any African-Americans” in their establishments either. Martinez recalled an occasion when she heard Miller grab a DJ’s microphone at the Tengo and scream, “get that f*cking n*gger music off here.”
William Whitlock is a Black former Cordish employee. He testified that Miller once personally threatened him after he saw numerous Black people in his club.
“He made the comment that if he ever saw this many n**gers in the building again, he would chain the doors and burn it down with me inside,” Whitlock said. “He was embarrassed and horrified to see what we had done to his club.”
Another allegation claims that Cordish used “rabbits” as a way to scare off Black clientele according to Martinez.
“A ‘rabbit’ was a white kid who got free drinks to go around the District, do whatever he wanted, so long as he singled out blacks and started confrontations with them,” Martinez said.
There was even a former “rabbit” who testified affirming the scheme. Thomas Alexitch said in an affidavit that he was employed by Cordish’s company to be an instigator at Cordish’s Mosiac club after supervisors allegedly started complaining about “attracting the wrong kind of crowd.” According to Alexitch, his job was to “start altercations with certain groups of people. By starting these altercations, I ensured that these groups of people would be kicked out of the club.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Trump’s transition team said:
“Reed has been a Vice President with his family business for over 20 years. The company has been nationally lauded for taking on the toughest urban redevelopments and revitalizing urban-cores. They have been vetted by Government agencies across the country including being awarded gaming licenses in multiple states. The allegations referenced against the company were determined to be baseless and dismissed by summary judgement with no finding of wrong doing. In fact Cordish has been recognized from leading civil rights groups as a model company for inclusiveness. In its 100 year history including welcoming over 50 million visitors per year to its developments and with a work-force of over 10,000 employees the Company has a truly exemplary civil rights record without a single finding against the company or its principals.”
There are currently multiple lawsuits by African American plaintiffs against Cordish’s company, alleging harassment and physical assault by company employees.
Cordish joins a growing list of Trump advisors and nominees such as Steve Bannon and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) with long histories of being connected to accusations of racism against Blacks and other minorities. However, like most of his controversial decisions, Trump seems unconcerned with public outrage as he continues to dole out crony jobs to his closest associates and highest paying donors.
At the risk of sounding preachy, Americans simply can not afford not to pay attention for the next four years. Trump’s presidency is a test that will determine whether or not decent-minded Americans are worthy of the country they think they deserve.
Featured image via Yogonet