Man dressed up as minstrel and mocked black colleague
A 62-year-old man has been fined for dressing up as a black and white minstrel during a work party and singing in the face of a black employee to mock her.
Brian Davies caused the woman “alarm, distress and offence” by blacking up his face and performing during a Christmas outing with colleagues.
Cardiff Magistrates’ Court heard catering manager Loretta Dayley was “singled out” by Davies when he directed the black and white minstrel song Mammy at her at the Coopers Carvery in Cardiff.
On Wednesday, Davies, a maintenance worker at the mental healthcare provider the Priory Group, was ordered by magistrates to pay a total of £450 for his “racially aggravated” behaviour.
Prosecutor Robert Reid said Mr Davies had depicted a character from the Black and White Minstrel Show, which appeared on British television in the 1960s and 1970s.
Mr Reid said: “The show was part of mainstream culture and entertainment. But we have moved on and social attitudes have changed.”
He said Davies insisted Miss Dayley attend the carvery do for employees of the Priory Group on December 20 last year, telling her he had bought her a “present” after she had initially showed “reluctance” to go.
Mr Reid said: “The persistence he displayed on her attending shows that he was intent on focusing this particular prank on her.
“At the Christmas outing he retired briefly before returning, dressed as a black and white minstrel from a television show, and he sang a number of lines from that show, paying attention to Miss Dayley.”
Footage of the incident was played in court, showing Davies with his face blackened and wearing a boater hat, a white shirt and swinging around a cane while singing at Miss Davies, who is initially seen laughing along with her colleagues.
But Mr Reid said the incident left Miss Dayley “distressed”, she was receiving medication and had been off work since December 28 last year.
Miss Dayley broke down in tears while telling the court via video link how she felt “humiliated” during the stunt.
She said: “Because everyone was laughing I started laughing, too. But I was really embarrassed.
“Everyone was roaring with laughter and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.”
Miss Dayley said colleagues took photographs and video clips of Mr Davies, and some even posed for selfies with him.
She said she recognised the song as Mammy, sung by black and white minstrels, saying she knew it “was deemed a racist song”.
Miss Dayley, who said she had been off work since December 28 because of the incident, added: “All I want is for people to be aware this man humiliated has humiliated me in public and caused me distress. Because his behaviour caused me a lot of suffering.
“This is a direct racist attack on me.”
The court heard Davies was interviewed by police after Miss Dayley made a complaint.
In the interview he stated he had no intention of causing her any distress and denied his behaviour was abusive.
When he was was cautioned he told officers: “Are you serious? I only dressed up.”
Davies, who was supported in court by his female “partner” despite being separated, told the court he had worked with Miss Dayley for two years and considered her a “real dear friend”.
Asked by Mr Reid if he thought his actions could be regarded as racist, he said: “It never even crossed my mind.”
Davies denied focusing on and making a beeline for Miss Dayley and said he did not agree the Black and White Minstrel show “mocked” black people, saying: “I just thought it was a show with songs and dance.”
Asked if he now thought he was wrong to do the performance, Davies replied: “Maybe looking at it now but at the time I thought I was just dressing up as a black and white minstrel.”
Davies said he was “devastated” when he learned Miss Dayley was offended by the incident and said he tried to apologise to her at work.
Mr Reid told Davies: “You were mocking her race and, as a result, mocking her.
“You were just emphasising she was in another group to other people in your group, and that made her liable to mockery.”
Magistrates found Davies guilty of causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress, saying he had made a “concerted effort” to make sure Miss Dayley attended event to abuse her.
Head magistrate Ken Horseman said: “We find your behaviour was abusive and racially aggravated.”
Davies, from Caernarvon Gardens, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, was fined £120, and told to pay a £300 contribution to court costs and a £30 victim surcharge.