NEW ORLEANS — The Sewerage & Water Board’s executive director on Friday said he was launching an investigation into a photo being described as racist that was taken in the agency’s machine shop and posted to Facebook.
The image shows bananas in a cage with the caption that begins “This is absolutely disgusting. The racist white men of the Machine Shop in the Facility Maintenance Department of Sewerage & Water Board at the Carrollton Plant thought this would be a funny joke to leave behind …”
The S&WB did not say when it believes the photo was taken, but it was posted to a user’s page and shared with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office and local media on Friday morning.
In a statement, Executive Director Ghassan Korban said the image was not acceptable.
“Under no circumstances does SWBNO allow or condone racist actions or sentiments toward any employee or member of any community,” Korban’s statement reads. “I will not stand for such behavior under my watch.”
Korban went on to say that the agency is “actively investigating” the situation and is “prepared to take swift action.”
“We pride ourselves on the diversity of our team and remain committed to providing a safe and supportive workplace for all our valued employees,” the statement continued.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who serves as president of the S&WB’s board first saw the image on Friday afternoon and quickly denounced it.
“It’s not accepted. That’s my stand on that and we’ll investigate, see what’s really going on and address it accordingly,” she said. “Any of our employees being discriminated against at any level or harassed, I have an issue with that. You know? It’s a personal issue that I have.”
City Councilman Jay Banks, who sits on the S&WB’s executive board, said the image was “unacceptable.”
“Anybody that finds this acceptable, something’s wrong with you,” he said. “The fact is you really did mean something and everybody knows what you meant.
“Everybody in America is entitled to free speech, but your free speech does not enable you the right to be able to come and threaten or intimidate me,” Banks said.