A white marketing firm employee has been fired, two weeks after he posted a photo of a black co-worker’s son to Facebook. The post was quickly accompanied with numerous racist comments, including one by the poster himself, identified as Gerod Roth, who went by the alias Geris Hilton on Facebook. Some of the commentary included referring to 3-year-old Cayden Jace as a “slave,” called him “Kunte Kinte,” that he was “starving,” with Roth capping it off by calling Jace “feral.” As a result, Roth has been fired by the Polaris Marketing Group. He worked at the business with Jace’s mother, Sidney Shelton. The story was first broken by Detroit blogger Ife Johari. About a week after Roth made the initial Facebook posting on September 16. He was fired on September 29.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Roth Says He’s Been ‘Targeted’
In an interview with Fox Atlanta, Gerod Roth said “I just feel upset, not only with myself, but also the character that was based off the comments that my friends had made. Cayden has been victimized but I have been targeted.” Atlanta BlackStar reports that Roth was fired, along with another colleague, charged with making a racist remark. Roth argued that the posting was “taken out of context” and that he’s not responsible for what his friends posted in response.
Roth has also been fired from his other job at dance music website YourEDM. At that gig he went by the alias Geris Hilton. In the summer of 2014, a Change.org petition was set up to ban Geris Hilton from the Facebook group “Be the Rave Family.” The petition alleged:
He’s constantly “trolling” the group.. He jokes about selling his dog for electric forest tickets and letting someone have sex with his girlfriend for a ride to a festival. Enough is enough. Bye bye Geris.
Complex reports that other commenters on the story have also been fired from their jobs. The website says that different businesses were contacted by Gil Scott-Heron’s daughter, Chegianna Scott-Heron. She told the site “[My father] always taught me to stick up for what was right, so when I came across the posts that Geris Hilton and his friends made, I decided I couldn’t just sit there and be upset about it. I had to do something.”
2. The President of Polaris Marketing Called Cayden ‘Part of the Family’
In a statement, Polaris Marketing Group’s President Michael Da Graca Pinto said “This morning I was disgusted to learn that one of my former employees made several racially charged comments on his personal Facebook page. Even worse, the comments were directed toward the son of another employee.
It breaks my heart that Sydney and her adorable son Cayden were subjected to such hateful, ignorant and despicable behavior. Cayden visits my office almost every afternoon after daycare, he’s sat at my dinner table and I consider him a part of the PMG family.”
He added that his company with never to business with Roth again. In a separate conversation with the Atlanta Journal Constitution “We have to be more careful about who we hire.” He added “The comments were horrible. What Sydney was upset about is that he referred to her son in slanderous ways and didn’t defend him.”
Speaking to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sidney Shelton, said that she joined Polaris in August 2015, Roth was always employed there. She says “We just did what co-workers do in the office. But we never went out to eat and never hung out. I work in an office with 10 people and it is very diverse. Racism is the last thing that should be thought of. Nobody is a minority. Everyone is equal here.”
3. Cayden’s Mother, Sidney Jade, Has Responded by Launching the ‘HisNameIsCayden’ Hashtag
Beginning with postings on her Facebook page, Cayden’s mother, Sidney Jade been posting a barrage of photos of her son with the hashtag “HisNameIsCayden” which became a national Twitter trend. In one Facebook post she wrote:
To my family (new found family included) and all of my friends. This is the post that I would love to have associated with Cayden’s name and OUR story. In this post are words that come from our hearts, not just words copied and pasted and manipulated into something else.
The tremendous amounts of love and support that we have been getting, is not only known nationwide but WORLDWIDE as well. We are truly warmed to be surrounded by all of these wonderful spirits. Thank you all for everything.
4. Despite Online Rumors, Cayden Is Not Deaf & Mute
Speaking to Atlanta BlackStar, Cayden’s grandmother, Susan Hardy, said “He’s my grandson. He’s not deaf, he’s not mute, he’s not abandoned,” contradicting online rumors that Cayden suffered from disabilities. Sidney Jade told the website that she was shocked that it took so long for Roth to be fired, saying “I was really caught off guard, and the fact the picture had been posted September 16th, and he wasn’t fired until the 29th, and acting like nothing happened. He just went about like nothing even happened. It went on for days, a week and a half before anyone found out it even existed.”
She added though that as soon as her boss found out about the Facebook post, Roth was fired. Sidney Jade says it’s nice to know your boss “has your back.” She later told the Atlanta Journal Constitution about how amazed she was with the groundswell of support “I never thought that it this would get this big. Someone in Kenya messaged my mother and said they were supporting us. I never imagined something like this happening in a million years. At 25, I am just trying to work and support my son.”
Susan Hardy also told BlackStar about how her daughter and grandson were involved in a car accident in 2014. She says “I told Sydney God is trying to tell you something. If you had seen that accident, you would not understand how she walked away from that accident. She decided the next day that ‘I am walking on faith.’ Then, Sydney’s friend bought her a one-way ticket from Detroit to Atlanta.” Hardy went on to talk about how proud she is of her granddaughter “Sydney doesn’t get food stamps… she doesn’t get government assistance, she works hard to take care of her child. Sydney is standing on her own. And as a single Black mother I can say I am proud she is standing on her own.”
5. Roth Said that Cayden Had Been Abandoned in the Atlanta Projects
On his now-deleted Facebook page, Roth wrote in the comments under his hateful post that Cayden was “feral.” When a friend asked Roth why the child was feral, the former marketing employee responded “Because he was abandoned in the Atlanta projects, to fend for himself, he is deaf mute, [can’t] properly communicate and is in and out of a shelter home, that is the definition of feral.” When asked about his “feral” comment by Fox Atlanta, “Someone said, ‘So you just have wild kids running throughout your office building’ and that is when I said he was feral. Which of course was interpreted directly as racist, but that was honestly not my intention.”