A Wisconsin security guard was fired earlier this week for telling a student not to use a racial slur. Now, Cher is offering to pay for any lawsuit he may file.
Marlon Anderson, a 48-year-old black security guard at a Wisconsin high school, was fired for repeating the N-word. He said he used it in order to tell a student not to say it. The student, who is also black, called Anderson the slur along with a number of other expletives.
“I made a conscious decision to address the word because it is an epidemic,” Anderson told CBS News affiliate WISC. “Our kids use it every day.”
He also questioned how he could be fired for standing up for himself.
“I just don’t understand getting fired for trying to defend yourself,” said Anderson, who worked for the district for 11 years. “As a black man, I have a right not to be called that word.”
Anderson said he had been called the slur by students before, and typically uses those conversations as teachable moments to explain the history, context and meaning of the slur, WISC reported. He and the Anderson and the Madison teachers’ union filed a grievance seeking his job back.
On Friday, legendary singer Cher offered to pay for any legal fees Anderson may incur if he wants to sue. She said she was shocked by the disrespect, especially following the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Cher also tweeted that she is trying to get in touch with Anderson in order to help.
On Friday, students at Madison West High School skipped class and marched through the streets of the state capitol to protest Anderson’s firing. Anderson’s son, Noah, who is the leader of the school’s Black Student Union, led the protest, WISC reports.
During the march, several students reportedly went to the district administration building to meet with interim superintendent Jane Belmore and Board of Education president Gloria Reyes about Anderson’s firing.
“Anything to do with us, our voices will be heard,” Noah told the crowd following the nearly two-hour meeting. “From now on, there will be no more decisions made without our consulting. In regard to Marlon, there is still a process going on. They took everything we said into consideration.”
“It was a powerful day today for us all,” Reyes told WISC. “They are educating us. They are our future, and we have to consider them in making decisions and policies that impact them directly.”
“I want to thank our students for coming today and for engaging in a conversation with us,” Belmore said in a statement. “We support our students when they disagree with us and challenge us to do better.”
“Employees always have the right to appeal decisions and we will move this process forward as quickly as possible,” Belmore said. “As we go through the appeal process, we will also be conducting a review of the current approach around racial slurs.”
Currently, the Madison School District forbids employees from saying racial slurs regardless of context. Last school year, there were at least seven cases in which a Madison School District staff member used a racial slur in front of students, according to the Associated Press. All of those employees were either fired or resigned.