This week, Byron Allen, chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios (ESN) and the National Association of African American-Owned Media (NAAAOM), continued his epic ascent into the legal stratosphere of Black America’s social engineering and provided a real-time case study regarding the pursuit of justice for racism against minority business owners and entrepreneurs.
In Monday’s ruling by California Federal District Court Judge George H. Wu, Mr. Allen survived a motion to dismiss filed by Charter Communications Inc. Within this balancing of the scales for justice, Charter Communications must respond to Allen’s $10 billion dollar lawsuit for racial discrimination in contracting against wholly minority-owned companies.
“We have evidence of racial bias harbored by top level Charter executives with decision-making authority, and allege, in detail, the discriminatory treatment ESN suffered at the hands of these executives,” said Skip Miller, attorney for Allen.
Founded by Allen in 1993, Entertainment Studios now owns seven 24-hour cable television networks and is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of content for broadcast television stations. ESN is also the parent-company for theGrio.com.
Allen’s suit against Charter is filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 42 U.S.C. §1981.
When Americans think of civil rights and racial discrimination, the common understanding is narrowly tailored to the racial biases which plague the employer-employee relationship. However, in terms of racism — which plagues business owners and entrepreneurs — knowledge on pursuing legal remedy is scarce.
Historically, the persecution of minority business owners intensified shortly after the end of the Civil War. In protest of the newly enacted Thirteenth Amendment, various Southern and Northern states enacted the so-called “Black Codes.” These codes imposed herculean legal limitations upon newly freed former slaves, severely limiting their ability to enter and enforce contracts for goods and labor. In response, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which officially conferred a series of legal rights equally to all citizens, including the right to contract as an independent business owner.
Presently, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, when combined with the Fourteenth Amendment (which extends certain constitutional protections to businesses), seemingly provides the legal foundation for minority business owners to defend themselves against racial discrimination.
But most minority businesses, despite actually being subjected to racial discrimination, are seldom aware of how to legally navigate the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Even worse, these minority business owners are too often left perplexed by the court’s constant rejection of articulate claims via early dismissal litigation tactics deployed by discriminating business owners.
And then comes Allen’s Entertainment Studios.
Soon after filing their suit for racial discrimination, Allen and NAAAOM were met with Charter Communications’ motion to dismiss the suit. Generally, a motion to dismiss requests the court to throw out a case without hearing its merits. The defendant commonly files these motions immediately after the plaintiff files a complaint. Spanning back to before the Civil War, pre-trial motions, such as a motion to dismiss, have unethically been utilized to severely restrict the ability of minorities to fully engage the legal process.
Part of the problem is that these shotgun-like motions are based on a loosely articulated assertion that said discrimination and its effects are a by-product of an overriding business interest and not discriminatory intent. A motion to dismiss attempts to put the burden on the plaintiff to prove absolute or direct evidence of discrimination in its initial pleading, as opposed to in litigation. This is all without allowing the plaintiff to exercise its legal right to perform a “discovery” of the defendant, its employees and relevant records.
Mr. Allen surviving Charter Communications’ motion to dismiss serves as a much needed case study on the protections of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and its direct application to minority business owners against private companies.
According to Mr. Allen, “The cable industry spends $70 billion a year licensing cable networks and 100 percent African American-owned media receives ZERO. This is completely unacceptable. We will not stop until we achieve real economic inclusion for 100 percent African American-owned media.”
For discerning minority business owners and entrepreneurs, following the legal framework illuminated by Allen and NAAAOM will provide a spark of understanding on how to hold private businesses accountable for racial discrimination in contracting. More importantly, it provides serious legal precedent.
Unlike other Civil Rights protections for employees, the enforcement provision of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 for minority business owners is vested within the courts, not a federal agency. In the spirit of fair and open competition, the Allen decision set a benchmark legal precedent upon which all judicial jurisdictions and minority business owners subjected to racial discrimination must take notice.