Can the No FEAR Act force a change in Huntsville, Alabama?

Matthew Fogg is a veteran of wars against criminality on two fronts.  Highly decorated for his leadership in America’s war on drugs, Marshal Fogg has also successfully fought the U.S. Department of Justice in the courts.  In 1998 a federal jury found Attorney General Janet Reno and the entire U.S. Marshal Service (USMS) guilty of discrimination in Fogg’s career. The jury awarded him a landmark $4 million, found the entire USMS to be a racially hostile environment for all African American deputy marshals and promoted him to the rank of chief deputy. 

Fogg is currently guiding employees of the US Army and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), in their struggle against discrimination and blacklisting at Redstone Arsenal, in Huntsville, Alabama.  He is also executive Director of CARCLE, Congress Against Racism & Corruption In Law Enforcement.


I’m proud of to be a U.S. Marshal.  I’m even more proud that I have fought racism in the U.S. Marshals Service every step of the way for the past 17 years, resulting in a $4 million judgment.  Since federal law limits such awards to $300,000—equal to the sum already paid to the lawyers who helped me prove my case of racial discrimination and reprisals—I won’t get rich any time soon.   (Compensation with back pay, however, is expected to accumulate beyond a $1 million.)   Nevertheless, the 1998 Fogg v. Reno decision was both a personal victory and a blow struck for all the brave men and women of color in government service.

When I say “brave,” I’m not just talking about sisters and brothers in federal law enforcement.  Minorities of all job descriptions are subjected to daily assaults against their dignity and livelihoods in workplaces throughout the U.S. government.   Ultimately, it has been my faith in GOD who has blessed me with a double portion of intestinal fortitude to stay the course in this never-ending war within the most powerful institution on the planet.  We don’t pick racial fights, but we’re not backing down either.  That goes for all GS pay grades, from the janitor sweeping the halls at the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., to the African American Ph.D. designing weapons systems at Redstone Arsenal, in Huntsville, Alabama.

When I was first asked to look into complaints of discrimination at the U.S. Army’s Redstone installation, I thought I was going to assist one employee.  Instead, I found myself on a base rife with cruel, pervasive racism.  Direct evidence indicated that minorities are systematically held back from promotion, threatened with dismissal, ‘blacklisted’ when they file lawful grievances, treated as pariahs in the workplace and subjected to vile verbal abuse.  My immediate advice was, get organized.

Two years later, the 200-strong Redstone Area Minority Employees Association (RAM), is preparing a class action suit against Redstone’s various U.S. Army commands and NASA.  RAM has compiled evidence of massive illegality, including falsification of documents, biased clearance revocations, obstruction of justice, and perjury by federal managers—including many who are still employed.  I serve as RAM’s executive director and also officially represent many of these employees in the agencies’ equal employment opportunity administrative processes.

Redstone’s Racist Record

For me, a defining moment of culture bias reality came when Al Sullivan, the former Commanding General over Redstone facility operations, finally stopped playing the innocence game.  At a press conference last year, in response to RAM allegations, Sullivan said, “Does discrimination exist? Yes it does. It exists in any organization.”

Ironically, I owe my excellent training in the arena of investigations protocol to the U.S. government.  What the U.S. Marshals Service didn’t teach me, I learned on my own in the course of suing the Department of Justice.  However, my personal experiences did not fully prepare me for the appalling scope of institutionalized bigotry at Redstone Arsenal.  Certainly, no civilized person could have predicted the sudden resurrection of the epithet, “Tar Baby,” the new slur of choice among some civilian and military supervisors. It is a phrase commonly used in Ku Klux Klan web pages that portray black Americans as sub-human. (See Tar Baby Outrage in this issue of . )   

In response to RAM’s repeated protests against all forms of discrimination, including a demand for a congressional investigation into conditions at Redstone, the government commissioned a $185,000, three-month study by Booze-Allen & Hamilton, of McLean, Virginia.  The company surveyed almost 2,000 Redstone employees.  Although the company whitewashed a number of RAM’s key complaints, its survey discovered shocking levels of dissatisfaction with the promotions and appeals process on the base.  An astonishing “79.5% of non-managers and 53.5% of managers believe that selection decisions across [Redstone] are based on relationships and favoritism,” concluded Booze- Allen.  “In addition, citing fears of reprisal, some participants claim that challenging a decision could be detrimental to an employee’s career.”  

Had the confidential survey been limited to minority employees, the verdict against management would have been near-unanimous, and the term “favoritism” would be replaced by a more accurate description of Redstone’s employment practices: racist.  Ultimately, RAM’s class action suit will prove the rightness of our cause.

The prospects for victory in the courts are excellent.  Just last month, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Washington, D.C. agreed to a $3.75 million settlement of a suit by 120 Black scientists and engineers.  The plaintiffs will also get the promotions they had been unfairly denied under NASA’s discriminatory personnel policies.

I believe bias practices at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center are even more pervasive than at Goddard.

Huntsville’s besieged minority employees can also look forward to their day in court, with confidence that they will prevail at the end of the process.  However, until only a few weeks ago, a key weapon was missing from the civil rights arsenal; no mechanism existed that would make discriminating agencies accountable for their crimes

No matter how high the monetary award, the offending agencies have never been held accountable for the bill.  Taxpayers, not perpetrators, paid the price, while the agencies that committed or permitted crimes against their minority employees lost not a dollar in funding.  Agency executives kept right on stepping up the career ladder, losing judgments but retaining their budgets.

The First Civil Rights Bill of the 21st Century

On May 15, we scored a righteous victory, with a lot of help from our friends in the civil rights community and in Congress.  President George W. Bush signed into law the Notification and Federal Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act, or No FEAR, backed most notably by African American Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WS).

It was a day that whistleblowers like myself will long remember. Hopefully, passage of the No FEAR Act will become an event that racists, who are strategically placed throughout the federal bureaucracy, will not soon forget.

Under the old rules, agencies that were found guilty of discrimination walk away from the courtroom without a scratch.  Damage awards were paid out of a general U.S. Treasury fund covering the entire federal government, rather than by the agency that broke the law. 

In other words, racists responsible for harming citizens at tremendous cost to the taxpayer were allowed to carry on with business-as-usual, totally unaccountable for their crimes.  We may finally be rid of the old system of official impunity.

The new rules require that settlements and judgment money come out of the offending agency’s budget, and that each agency make a yearly report to Congress on the number of discrimination and whistleblower cases pending against it.  They will also be forced to report on whether employees have been disciplined for discriminating.

NAACP board member Leroy Warren summed up the issue best. ”This legislation,” he told the Associated Press, “should stop some of the managers whose actions are like some international outlaw, where they can do what they want to, when they want to and how bad they want to, without anyone taking control of it.''

Congresswoman Lee said the bill “could not have been passed without the pain and the sheer agony of so many employees who came forward to mention that their lives were made almost in the form of a nightmare because they chose to stand up.”

I am intimately familiar with that kind of pain.  So is my soul mate in the struggle against racial crime, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo.  Her $600,000 award against the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000 was, like mine, reduced to $300,000, in line with the federal cap.  Her case against EPA was credited as the impetus for the No Fear Act.

I was also honored to be among those who submitted testimony before the Congress in support of NO FEAR, on May 9, 2001.

My representation in these matters encourages support of the provisions of No FEAR that are essential to government oversight and accountability. I had the opportunity to hear a GS-15 civilian management official for the US Army's Aviation and Missile Command testify under oath on three separate occasions that a black female engineer with a Ph.D. degree in Systems Engineering could not get promoted or transferred because she had been "blacklisted".

Initially, I was shocked at the boldness of his statement and the obvious lack of concern for any consequences from his superiors. He even described it as an actual list similar to what banks use to avoid certain areas of town. In talking to other employees and the local AFGE union president in that area, it appears the term blacklisting is a common language and an accepted practice for reprisal in the Redstone area federal workplace. This is a clear example that federal management officials realize, they are not being held to the same accountability standards that are enforced on private industry.

I drew upon my own experience with the Department of Justice, which is still spending millions of taxpayer dollars fighting me in court.

Again, we observe an outrageous process where the DOJ simply challenges each dissatisfied outcome and extends an already long litigious process because, they know legally that monetary payments in Title VII will be extracted from a special US Treasury fund not accountable to the real violators of our great Constitution. No FEAR is fair because current laws permit our government to personally charge plaintiffs who do not prevail in Title VII claims with court cost and litigation fees. Therefore, in like manner No FEAR will levy real damages against discriminating agencies and their officials who do not prevail in Title VII claims, and capture a record that will always expose a pattern of all illegal activity involving Title VII….

There are so many federal agencies now operating counter productive to our great Constitution and it’s discrimination laws. ‘NO FEAR’ will at least make the agency heads who are found guilty, give an account for the money they must spend on these violations; and that means, the US Army and NASA budgets in Huntsville.

Punish the Perpetrators

Fear has many faces.  In Black Alabama, there is the historical fear of murderous white men with guns, torches and bombs.  At present-day Redstone Arsenal, the cultural heirs of nightriders use fear to oppress, humiliate and marginalize African American employees.  Fear of loss of livelihood is their favorite weapon to silence whistleblowers and intimidate workers deserving of promotion.  Fear, not competence, keeps racists in charge.

Fear is a powerful emotion. Its synonyms include: dread, fright, alarm, panic, trepidation, terror.  Through organization, and by utilizing all the legal means at our disposal, minorities and whistleblowers can teach the discriminators the meaning of fear.

If we unite in large numbers, racists will dread the mere mention of our organizations’ names.

Through constant vigilance and careful documentation, we can turn the legal tables on supervisors who sacrifice their agencies’ missions on the alters of prejudice.  For the first time, bigots will be frightened for their paychecks.

We can spread alarm in the ranks of racists, so that they will at least pretend to be decent human beings.

If we pull together to unmask those who draw up the blacklists, panic will spread among the perpetrators of reprisals, who will find their own employment terminated.

Let them shake with trepidation that even one of their racist colleagues might be so foolish as to utter the words, Tar Baby.

My Mission

Most important of all, we should all be terrified at the military consequences of racism at Redstone Arsenal and wherever else bigotry cripples our national defense.

The entire nation has been summoned to confront foreign terror.  Black Americans like myself have always answered the call for help against any enemy of our country.

My mother and father were great godly mentors for a family of nine siblings raised in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial and our nation’s capital. Three of my brothers served in the Vietnam conflict and unfortunately, for a brief period they were all in the battle zone at the same time. But by God’s mercy all three returned home with only one carrying the US Army ‘Purple Heart’.

My identical twin served and protected the great state of Maryland as a State Trooper until his career was ended by discrimination.

And last year we laid dad to rest at 100 years of age. He lived in an era when the Wright brothers flew the first flight and he saw the start and finish of two world wars. He was here when former Alabama governor George Wallace proclaimed “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever”.

But dad has raised-up a son that understands his historic grief. That son shall stand on the promise of God that all men are created equal. And using the words that Dr. King once said:  “This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South (Huntsville) with. We shall hew out of a mountain of despair (at Redstone), a stone of hope.” So in closing, I ask the question that David asked when the biblically famed Goliath became a threat to the mighty kingdom of Israel. What right does this uncircumcised demon (racism) have to come before the GOD of Israel (America)? God will deliver us!           

Redstone Area Minority Employees Association

Congress Against Racism & Corruption In Law Enforcement – CARCLE

Huntsville Times – Gen Sullivan admits to discrimination at Redstone

Ku Klux Klan site


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Other Commentaries in this issue:

Tar Baby Outrage!: Racism and Corruption at the Redstone Arsenal

Condoleezza's Complaint & Paratroopers in the Basement: Connie's image and the Venezuelan coup

Did the Green Party Betray Black America: by Dr. Jonathan David Farley, Guest Commentator

Commentaries in previous issues :

Condoleezza & Geraldo, a Fine Pair: The Role Models' Burden

Hard Right Cash Defeated in Black City - This Time
Ultra-Conservative Favorite Cory Booker Loses in Newark, New Jersey

Newark: The First Domino? - The Hard Right Tests its National Black Strategy

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right's Plan to Capture Newark NJ - April 5, 2002

A Letter from Harvard: "How to spot a "Black Trojan Horse." Dr. Martin Kilson, Guest Commentator

Reparations Part One: The True Value of Some Land and an Animal

The Living Wage Movement: A New Beginning - Bread, Power and Civil Rights in 19 Languages

Rep. Cynthia McKinney's Statement on the Events of September 11: The need for an investigation of the events surrounding September11 is as obvious as is the need for an investigation of the Enron debacle.

Make The Amendment: How to Get the U.S. Government Out of the International Drug Trade

Psychologically Unfit: The U.S. Can't Handle the Death Penalty

Linquistic Profiling: By Patrice D. Johnson, guest commentator