In the wake of the Obama Administration’s ballyhooed elimination of Osama bin Laden, thousands of government workers across the United States wonder when their president will provide them the ‘comfort of closure’ through his attacking a terrorism they confront daily.
This terrorism ravishing government employees working in entities from mega-federal agencies to small municipalities fits the classic dictionary definition of terrorism: using force or threats to demoralize, intimidate and subjugate.
This terrorism is a tyranny predating the birth of al Qaeda: institutional racism and its related deprivations like vicious retaliation against anyone objecting to unlawful institutional inequities.
Interestingly, a raging battlefield in the institutional racism wars is the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Rights, where numerous organizations have blasted that office’s director for his failures to enforce civil rights.
Additionally, that director, Rafael DeLeon, allegedly engages in improper behavior inclusive of sexist and racist remarks according to critics, including the National Whistleblowers Center and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), asserts DeLeon himself is the subject of numerous discrimination complaints.
The Washington Post’s influential Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson published an article in late April stating that “if” the EPA’s Civil Rights Office “were a chunk of ground, it would be declared a disaster area.”
Davidson’s column cited a scathing report on the EPA’s Civil Rights Office released in March by the Deloitte Consulting firm.
That report criticized the office’s “record of poor performance,” raking it for “losing sight of its mission and priorities” by focusing on “minor responsibilities” instead of on “critical discrimination cases affecting employees and disadvantaged communities.”
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, in a press release, stated, “Conditions of fairness inside EPA, especially for whistleblowers, have gotten worse, not better during the past two years…How can EPA speak with any credibility on topics such as environmental justice when it cannot address gross injustice inside its own hallways?”
This row inside the EPA is embarrassing to the Obama Administration, because it raises disturbing questions about that administration’s real commitment to workplaces free of discrimination and to protecting whistle-blowers who expose misconduct.
The Obama Administration receives bad marks for protecting whistle-blowers, with some critics contending this administration assails whistleblowers with a vengeance exceeding even that of the previous Bush Administration.
EPA Director Lisa Jackson, the first African-American to head that agency, has commended Rafael DeLeon, the man she reappointed to head the EPA’s Civil Rights Office last year. And some observers defend him, contending that some of the complaints against him are weak.
DeLeon had fired Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a whistle-blower subjected to intense race-based harassment who successfully sued the EPA for the racism and retaliation she had experienced.
Coleman-Adebayo’s ordeal triggered congressional passage of America’s first civil rights legislation of the 21st Century, a measure stiffening whistleblower protections known as NO FEAR.
Ironically, the official at the EPA charged with enforcing that NO FEAR law within the agency is DeLeon.
DeLeon “was the very fox who caused the dysfunction as a previous Director of the EPA OCR henhouse,” charged Dwight Welch, former EPA Scientist’s Union President, in a statement. “To reappoint this management bully and praise his support for implementing NO FEAR sends a chilling message to EPA employees.”
The National Whistleblowers Center, in an April 2011 letter to Jackson, charged that DeLeon “has exemplified a continuation of the old mode of denying that any problems exist and defending management.”
The Center and PEER are among organizations now demanding DeLeon’s dismissal. EPA spokespersons say the agency is examining criticisms against the Civil Rights Office and a response some critics see as more foot-dragging.
During the same time frame when President Obama was approving the raid against bin Laden, a particularly mean-spirited example of institutional racism paraded inside Philadelphia’s federal courthouse.
This occurred during a hearing before a federal magistrate on a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former prosecutor’s office detective in suburban Philadelphia Montgomery County who was fired after complaining about nearly a decade of racist slights that included his banishment to work inside a basement office filled with visible mold, a situation that led to the detective’s contracting tuberculosis.
Risa Vetri Ferman, the first female DA for Montgomery County, fired county detective Reginald Roberts in August 2008 one day after the Pennsylvania State Human Relations Commission held a hearing on his complaint that he had been forced to endure a litany of discriminatory abuses during eight-plus years as the only black among 36 DA’s office detectives.
Ferman told a reporter in 2008 that she fired Roberts for poor job performance.
She rejected charges that her firing of Roberts in the wake of his PHRC hearing constituted retaliation.
Additional evidence contradicting Ferman’s non-racist rationale for her discharging him is the fact that when she fired Roberts, the decorated officer was serving as president of the Pennsylvania Narcotics Officers Association – a post that high performing police officers would not confer on a low-performing colleague.
Furthermore, Ferman and other top Montco government officials had actually backed Roberts when he campaigned for the Association presidency.
The PHRC’s fact-finding report on the Roberts complaint stated that in 2006 Montgomery County officials had rated Roberts’ performance as “stellar” in all work areas.
“As late as September 28, 2007 [Montco officials] praised complainant’s dedication and record as a police officer and detective,” stated that PHRC report.
During that recent federal magistrate’s hearing, a lawyer for Montco officials declared Roberts’ performance problems dated from “early 2007” — a contention seemingly contradicted by Montco performance evaluations of Roberts as cited in the PHRC report.
Roberts’ health deteriorated in Fall 2007 prompting sick days and an eventual month’s long sick leave.
His sick leave, paralleling escalations in clashes over his objections about racist workplace incidents, prompted his white supervisor to blast Roberts in an e-mail as a “lazy arrogant jack-ass employee who is plotting a lawsuit.” That e-mail, obtained during discovery for the federal lawsuit, quotes the supervisor as saying Roberts needed a “firm kick in the ass.”
Montco DA Ferman, in 2008, dismissed Roberts’ discrimination claims as meritless by arguing that his ultimate supervisor was a black man, Oscar Vance, the chief of Montco’s county detectives.
Ferman, in a news interview, said Vance “would never tolerate any kind of harassment or discrimination.”
But Robert’s federal lawsuit claims that Vance not only tolerated the discrimination, by that ignoring a supervisor who began slinging racist slurs at Roberts in September 2001, but that he allegedly participated in the campaign of harassment in the period preceding Ferman’s firing of Roberts.
President Obama, when announcing the death of bin Laden, urged all Americans to display the post-9/11 spirit of togetherness and cooperation…a spirit that many victims of institutional racism said was as mythical as contentions that Obama’s election had ushered in a ‘post-racial era’ in America.
Montgomery County NAACP leaders in October 2008 unsuccessfully sought the rehiring of Roberts during a meeting of the Montco Commissioners (one of whom was the county’s former DA and Ferman’s former boss).
During that Commissioner’s meeting, NAACP officials called on Commissioners to hire and promote more blacks and exhibit more responsiveness to allegations of racial discrimination within county government.
One of those NAACP leaders, a branch president named Evelyn Warner, said during that October 2008 meeting that “there is a lingering problem of racism in the county. We do not get respect.” She cited such facts as Montco’s having only one black judge since the “county’s founding in 1784.”
As columnist and internet radio host Solomon Comissiong recently noted, America as a post-racial society is a “nasty myth” promulgated “largely by the white media, liberals, conservatives, and people of color who are drunk on the Obama moonshine.”
Institutional racism is as old as America itself.
When four ex-slaves living in Philadelphia unsuccessfully sought congressional protection in 1797 from a North Carolina law illegally ordering their re-enslavement, their petition to Congress criticized the “terror of evil-doers” – phrasing similar to language President George W. Bush once used against bin Laden.