Regardless of how pissed off he may have been, you don't fight racism with more racism. All that does is exacerbate the situation and hurt your credibility. Calling someone a dumbwhite* might feel good but does nothing for your cause.
I've always believed the correct response to racism is to educate. Educate his coworkers on the origin and significance of his necklace and why they shouldn't equate the way he dresses with being a thug. And in this case, where it is systemic and tolerated, appeal to a higher authority such as HR and the court system.
It's not his responsibility to "fight racism", it's the responsibility of his employers to provide a non-racist workplace. Your "correct response" is of course ideal, but imagine how draining it would be for someone to attempt to change an corporate culture 200+ people. It's unfair to expect that from an someone whose only wants to not have to endure severe racism at their 9-5.
Sure, only when it's your boss being racist, you don't have many other options than shut up or get fired. French white man here, apalled by 70% (yah, i did the math) of that whole thread. I don't care being called a colonialist because that's true, my country was a colonial empire, so was the UK, and so is the US now, with 200 years of history to catch up (irak anybody?). Laws against racism might be enforces, one day, in the US, who knows. It even happenned in moste European countries.
This guy did the right thing : stand up and talk. Obviously he cares more about telling "the world" than being patted on the shoulder. In other words, he somewhat did it the "black panthers" way, and as much as I like Martin Luther King and gandi, i don't believe you gain rights without fighting. For real.
Why that reaction of mine ? Cause it remembers me an episode of my youth, when i xas living with my Commando father (yeah, like your marines) in africa, and was the only white guy who stood up for a Malgache girl who was being bashed by a bunch of white guys, everyday on our way to school. I got beaten in front of the whole bus for about 15 minutes by the bunch of white racists guys. The driver, a black guy from Cameroon came to me the next day, and told me that he was glad i had to loose some teeth, because otherwise he would have lost his job.
The employee in the hostile work environment doesn't say that he said "Dumbwhite" - it's an internal response and doesn't indicate that he's fighting racism with racism. Objectively based on the incident presented, it's a simple statement of fact that the co-worker, is dumb, white and a .
It's not the job of members of minority groups to educate members of majority groups on their culture. People who aren't members of minority cultures should make an effort to self-educate and work against the grain of systemic discrimination.
Regardless of where he said it, "dumbwhite*" is a phrase with racist intent. Objectively based, "fucking black people" is just a reference to people with a dark skin color but in the context of the English language we all know what it means.
I agree it's not his job to educate, and he shouldn't have to. But in reality, most racists are not going to educate themselves. If they did, they probably wouldn't be racists. So if he actually wants to see a positive change and stop Steve from making racist comments, his best bet is to try and educate Steve himself.
This article might just do that. The article itself already talks about how Steve was completely dismissing everything he had to say. But in written form with a semi-anonymous target, the article will likely filter back to the company and to Steve. In written form, the author gets to say everything he wants to say and why. If Steve reads it, in all likelihood he will dismiss it, but it may also provide a nugget around which he may start to see what he was doing.
There are several definitions of racist talk, one is essentially "making references to someone's race and implying everyone in that group is the same (in some attribute)". Lots of people like this definition because it's nice and simple and it means black people in the USA can be racist to white people if they say things like "Dumbwhite".
There's another definition, which is talk that's designed to maintain & reinforce the institutionalised power structure among races. Right now, if modern USA life was a video game, "white male" would be an easier difficulty level than "black male". There are statistically less problems for the "white male" group. Racist talk is talk that re-enforced that imbalance. This definition is harder for some people to accept because it means that you need to look at yourself and think about what power imbalances you might be benefiting from, and it means you can't just do s/white/black/g and make it just as racist.
So no, it's more racist to say "dumbblack" than "dumbwhite"
A significant part of what you're missing is that the function of the actions of the racist manager is to rob the author of political power. Racism works in some pretty subtle subtle ways - by painting the author as 'that aggressive black guy', the manager has already clipped his wings.
You may have also missed this line: After years of arguments with white men (and white women), watching white men (and white women) move away from me when I start to talk about oppression (i.e. what life as a poor black queer is like), I know when to pick and chose my battles
Can you not see just how exhausting it would be to have to constantly explain and justify yourself?