SALISBURY, N.C. – Five white professors in Salisbury, N.C., have filed a lawsuit against Livingstone College, claiming the private college discriminated against them because of the color of their skin.
"Thirty years ago if you would have said, 'I'm white and I'm being discriminated against by blacks,' people would have laughed at you," said Arthur Steinberg, Ph.D., who taught history at Livingstone until his termination in May 2000.
He and the other plaintiffs claim white professors were routinely denied promotion and tenure at Livingstone because of the color of their skin.
Steinberg said he was routinely subjected to racist remarks from his black colleagues and even had his car vandalized. The five professors are seeking damages totaling roughly $1 million dollars.
Livingstone officials said that their policy is to refuse comment on the specifics of pending litigation. But college spokeswoman Charlotte Brown told Fox News, "We emphatically deny any discrimination against anybody."
Although Livingstone's student body is 98 percent black, Brown said the college prides itself on a racially diverse faculty that is currently "43 percent non-African-American."
But the professors point to a black administrator's 1994 reorganization plan — a document the plaintiffs call "the smoking gun."
"It's a plan to remove white faculty from positions of power as department or division chairs and replace them with African-American faculty," said plaintiff Bob Russ, Ph.D., who teaches English at Livingstone.
In the margins of the document, handwritten instructions read: "English — Bring in black Ph.D. chair," "Build up Sciences and Math (Black)" and "Hire black chemist $48,000 — $50,000."
"It names a salary far in excess of white faculty's salary," Russ said.
While racial discrimination suits are nothing new to academia, educators say the cases against Livingstone are part of a growing trend of white professors suing historically black institutions.
John Stanfield, Ph.D., a sociologist at Morehouse College in Atlanta, said recent federal court rulings against hiring quotas have encouraged more whites to play the race card in employment disputes — a tactic once reserved for minorities. According to Stanfield, who is black, academics of all races claim discrimination more than they should.
"It's one of the most unfortunate tragedies of the post-1960s era," Stanfield said. "We've learned to use race as a political football."
While most discrimination cases filed by white educators challenge affirmative action programs, the Livingstone lawsuits are unique in that the five plaintiffs claim that they are victims of discrimination — period.
But the professors say it has been hard for them to convince other academics to take discrimination against whites seriously.
"Many people are afraid to take a stand because it's not politically correct," Steinberg said.
Bob MacKinnon, Ph.D., who taught psychology at Livingstone until May 2001, said discrimination against white educators is more prevalent than many academics care to admit.
"For every lawsuit that's filed, there's probably 20 that could have been filed," MacKinnon said. "You file these lawsuits at a great price. And the cost for me is that I'm no longer teaching."