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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/19/14

Racism's Chokehold on Black America: A Black Federal Employee's Perspective

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The Staten Island grand jury's failure to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a white New York police officer for killing Eric Garner, a black unarmed male, draws anguish, anger and agony from many Black Americans like myself. In deciding the white officer's fate the jury blindly ignored an uncut video that showed the law enforcement officer viciously using a banned chokehold to snuff the life out of a son, a husband, a father of six, a grandfather, and a Black American repeatedly gasping -- "I can't breathe." The killing of Eric Garner and the echoing news of the grand jury's failure to indict Pantaleo played before an American audience in high definition. It demonstrated racism's merciless chokehold on Black Americans.

A study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 1998 discussed racism as an "underlying factor in why black men in the United States have an overall death rate which is almost 50 percent higher than that of white men." The pervasive presence of racism, looms at individual, institutional and societal levels. It poses a debilitating concern for Black Americans throughout the United States cities, including Washington, DC -- our nation's capital. Research discloses that racism "acts as a classic chronic stressor, setting off the same physiological train wreck as job strain or marital conflict: higher blood pressure, elevated heart rate, increases in the stress hormone cortisol, suppressed immunity."

Within the federal government, Black Americans face suffocating abuses (i.e. assaults, racial slurs, intimidation, death threats) that adversely impact their lives daily. Serial discriminators, some with proven racial biases, actively discriminate against persons of color when deciding awards, ratings, promotions, and disciplinary actions including terminations. They freely use their civil service positions to escape personal liability, to retaliate against those who expose their unlawful violations, and to subjugate Black Americans using taxpayers' dollars. Hence, "freedom from racism," like the notion of "justice for all" is mythical for Black federal employees. Black Americans victimized in the federal workplace view unchecked racism as a form of domestic terrorism. Civil rights violators are seldom held accountable. Notably, federal law enforcement officials, who engage in unlawful biased behavior while serving as customs agents, prison guards, inspectors, correctional officers and air marshals, overwhelming escape penalties like Daniel Pantaleo, the white New York police officer who wrongfully killed Eric Garner.

Bigots With Badges. - No FEAR Rally 2002 - Mr. Matthew F. Fogg, Retired Chief Deputy US Marshal and former board member of Amnesty International USA, shown in photo exposing racism within the U.S. Department of Justice.                      Photo
Bigots With Badges. - No FEAR Rally 2002 - Mr. Matthew F. Fogg, Retired Chief Deputy US Marshal and former board member of Amnesty International USA, shown in photo exposing racism within the U.S. Department of Justice. Photo
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Most Americans chanting "I can't breathe" at rallies and expecting the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) to thoroughly investigate the Garner homicide are greatly unaware of the Justice Department's role --- to protect officials named in employment discrimination lawsuits. In employment discrimination cases, the DoJ's Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) operate much like Attorney Daniel Donovan, the prosecutor who thwarted Daniel Pantaleo indictment for the killing of Eric Garner. The AUSAs use their legal saavy to introduce "motion for dismissals" or "motions for summary judgment." They strangle the truth so that claims of racial injustice, as outlined in a plaintiff's lawsuit, never go before a jury. The case of Matthew Fogg exemplifies the DoJ's efforts to derail fairness and to circumvent punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior.

For roughly twenty-five (25) years, the DoJ fought to smother the employment discrimination claims of Matthew Fogg, a Black American and a decorated law enforcement officer who in 1978, filed a complaint against his employer, the United States Marshal Service (USMS). Despite the DoJ's countless legal shenanigans to thwart the case, a jury ultimately awarded Fogg $4,000,000 in damages. Fogg proved that the Justice Department had discriminated against him on grounds of race in violation of 717 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Fogg v Reno, Ashcroft, Gonzalez). (Case 1:94-cv-02814-JAR). After winning his case, Fogg continued to expose the chokehold racism has on Black America. He warned the Congress of how the Justice Department's Drug Enforcement Administration targeted black urban areas; but not white suburban areas, when making arrest under the guise of the "war on drugs" initiative. Fogg maintains that racism persists and that "Bigots with Badges" operate at the state, local and "federal" enforcement levels.

So, while some may view the DoJ like the calvary ready to usher in justice for the oppressed, The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C), a civil rights advocacy group, dismisses that whimsical notion. Mr. David Grogan, a retired supervisory Deputy United States Marshal and a C4C member, described the "combat zone" culture operating within the DoJ workplace. During the 2014 Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights, held in Washington, DC, Mr. Grogan told of a DoJ work environment extremely hostile to Black U.S. Marshals. He also told of the two race-based class actions U.S. Marshals filed against the DoJ due to workplace abuses. (Fogg v Holder and Brewer v Holder).

Since Eric Garner's tragic killing, many Americans espouse the mantra -- "Black Lives Matter." The C4C members, who exposed the U.S. Veterans Administration blacklisting of veteran employees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's denial of farm loans to Black farmers, and the U.S. Secret Service's abuse of Black Secret Service Agents, have always declared -- Black Lives Matter. The C4C members recognize that racism, which maintains a chokehold on Black America, ultimately endangers all U.S.citizens. For as Amnesty International reported - "Racial profiling blinds law enforcement to real criminal threats and creates a hole in the national security net." Hence, we must hold the U.S. Department of Justice accountable for ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans, including federal employees who expose internal workplace violations.



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Tanya Ward Jordan is the author of 17 STEPS: A Federal Employee's Guide For Tackling Workplace Discrimination. She serves as President and Founder of the Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C). C4C is an proactive non-profit self-help organization (more...)

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