Government Racism: A Case More Outrageous than Sherrod's Firing
The telephone at the DC area home of Marsha Coleman-Adebayo began ringing non-stop after the story broke recently about the hasty firing of U.S. Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod on false charges of being a racist.
Outraged callers wanted not just to express sympathy over Sherrod’s mistreatment but also to offer continuing support for Coleman-Adebayo, whose epic battle with a federal agency over despicable employment discrimination and retaliation produced America’s first civil rights law of the 21st Century.
Over a dozen years ago Coleman-Adebayo, an MIT-trained PhD, faced an onslaught from officials at the Environmental Protection Agency because she had spoken out about racism within that agency as well as about the EPA’s coddling of a U.S. corporation whose regulation-skirting mining practices in South Africa were seriously injuring workers there.
The gross mistreatment of Coleman-Adebayo by EPA officials so incensed both a conservative white Congressman and a progressive black Congresswoman that this unlikely pair collaborated on passage of the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (NOFEAR).
That legislation makes federal agencies more accountable when found guilty of discriminating against employees or of trying to silence whistleblowers.
While simple fairness should have protected Sherrod (USDA officials refused to allow her to rebut the false charges before they forced her to resign), NOFEAR could cost the USDA plenty, should decide Sherrod sue over her treatment (she has already announced plans to bring a libel suit against her initial tormentor, Andrew Breitbart, the maker of a deceptively edited video clip of her speech to the NAACP).
“What happened to Ms. Sherrod happens to thousands of federal employees daily,” said Coleman-
Adebayo, whose No FEAR Coalition is demanding an investigation into the Sherrod firing.
“Sherrod was a political appointee, so I think it’s unlikely that her firing was done without some consultation with the White House,” said Coleman-Adebayo, brushing off claims by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Democratic governor of Iowa, that he alone had decided to pull the plug on Sherrod.
“How far did this firing go up the political chain of command? We think an investigation will find a cover-up,” Coleman-Adebayo said during a recent interview with ThisCan’tBeHappening!
While the circumstances surrounding the firing of Sherrod and the bashing of Coleman-Adebayo differ, these two classic cases of workplace abuse over racial issues share similarities that give the lie to the ‘convention wisdom’ of conservatives regarding workplace discrimination complaints.
First of all, both Coleman-Adebayo and Sherrod sued federal agencies over charges of employment discrimination and won…Sherrod as part of a class-action lawsuit by black employees against the USDA, and Coleman-Adebayo as an individual against the EPA.
Courtroom success in employment discrimination lawsuits is rare, contrary to the vapid contention of FOX News talking-heads and Tea Party-types, who regularly make the false claim that so-called “activist judges” and/or “liberal-dominated” juries routinely dump bundles of dollars into the bank accounts of minorities who make allegedly trumped-up claims of workplace racism.