The Philadelphia Tribune: Shirley Sherrod is one spoke in an unjust wheel


Shirley Sherrod is one spoke in an unjust wheel

Tuesday, 27 July 2010 15:40 Written by Linn Washington Jr.

Last week’s right-wing botched slime attack on Shirley Sherrod brings to mind two folks whose situations share similarities to dynamics embedded in that spectacle.

Overreactions to this slime attack embarrassed the Obama administration, the national NAACP and hopefully mainstream media too eager to advance right-wing assaults.

But, typically, embarrassment does not exist within the right-wing dirt-balls driving the Sherrod onslaught — conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart and assorted Fox network talking-heads.

One of these two folks is a Philadelphian you’ve probably heard something about but don’t know by name while the other is someone you’ve probably heard about despite her racist dribbling by federal officials producing America’s first civil rights law of the 21st century.

One person is Jerry Jackson, one of two Philadelphia men at the center of what right-wingers proclaim as the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) Voter Intimidation Scandal.

The other person is Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a MIT trained doctorate, who endured incredible retaliation during the Clinton administration after blowing the whistle about rampant racism within the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the same EPA now turning a blind-eye to toxic BP practices threatening more misery for Gulf Coast residents.

Jerry Jackson and Samir Shabazz intimidated voters, inclusive of one carrying a baton, during the November 4, 2008, presidential election where Obama defeated GOP candidate McCain, according to the flatulent narrative pushed by right-wing operatives, conservative media commentators and GOP congressmen.

Curiously this NBPP pair tagged with intent to intimidate voters only showed up in predominately Black North Philadelphia at a polling place inside a predominately Black elderly apartment building in a predominately Black/Democratic ward instead of menacing polls in predominately white communities located one mile east and/or one mile west.

Conservative ire extends beyond the alleged NBPP acts. The truly scandalous component for conservatives is the refusal of the Obama administration to prosecute charges filed against the NBPP by the then lame-duck Bush Justice Department in January 2009.

Conservatives claim Obama officials backed-off prosecuting the NBPP to placate Blacks dismissing Obama administration contentions that the case lacked required proof of election law violations — a point of relevance noted by Pa. state Rep. W. Curtis Thomas and others.

“I think the Obama administration acted correctly in not pursuing voter intimidation that did not take place,” Thomas said whose district office is located less than a mile from the North Philly polling place where conservatives proclaim NBPP members ran amuck.

Jackson said he and Shabazz (the baton carrier) went to that polling place to protect the elderly against threatened harassment from racist Skinheads — a fact suppressed by right-wingers desperate to morph this molehill into a mountain to score political points against Obama … who ironically is a frequent target of NBPP criticism.

“How are we intimidating somebody at 12th and Fairmount in our community?” asks Jackson, the man who media coverage routinely talks about but never talks to.

Persons familiar with Jackson say this employed homeowner often assists with protecting seniors, consistently attends community meetings and regularly volunteers whenever someone is needed to help in that community. “He’s good people,” one North Philly activist/entrepreneur said about Jackson.

State Rep. Thomas, D-181th, raises an important fact universally excluded from the conservative narrative and media coverage: improper conduct by white GOP operatives at that poll triggering a verbal ruckus with Jackson and Shabazz producing inflammatory rhetoric from the NBPP pair that drove that voter intimidation charge.

“Republican Party operatives showed up in the afternoon demanding admission to the poll when they should have come at 6:45 a.m. to be properly sworn-in. Jackson was familiar with the rules and wasn’t going to let them run rough shod,” Thomas said, adding the ruckus erupted when the Republicans questioned why the NBPP was at the poll.

“Those Republicans were the only ones intimidated by Jackson and Shabazz. They were intimidated by their appearance not what they did,” Thomas contends.

The telephone at the D.C. area home of Marsha Coleman-Adebayo began ringing non-stop after the Shirley Sherrod story broke early last week.

More than a decade ago, Coleman-Adebayo faced an onslaught from EPA officials because she exposed racism within the agency and EPA cuddling of a U.S. corporation whose mining practices were literally killing workers in South Africa.

Coleman-Adebayo sued the EPA and won. Her mistreatment incensed a conservative white congressman and a progressive Black congresswoman so much that this pair collaborated on passage of NOFEAR, legislation making federal agencies more accountable when found guilty of discriminating against employees or trying to silence whistleblowers.

Coleman-Adebayo raises concerns about the Sherrod affair.

“It’s a terrible mistake to treat the Shirley Sherrod matter as an isolated incident and that is what the media is doing,” Coleman-Adebayo said during an interview last week.

“Every day federal employees who stand up and speak out are shredded by the government. EPA whistleblowers exposing the agency’s cozy relationship with BP are facing loss of their jobs.”

Like many, Coleman-Adebayo is increasingly disenchanted with President Barack Obama’s reform promises.

Obama appointed former EPA head Carol Browner as his energy czar, the same Browner who sanctioned the Clinton-era beat-down of Coleman-Adebayo.

“The person found liable for racism, sexism and sustaining a hostile work environment in my case now sits at the table with President Obama,” Coleman-Adebayo said. “Appointing Browner was the first indication for thousands of federal employees that this administration had no commitment to justice.”

Linn Washington Jr. is an award-winning writer who teaches journalism at Temple University.

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