Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Update on my memoir “Broken Silence”

Weeks after I completed my manuscript last year, I was diagnosed with PTSD which is why I decided to postpone the release date of my book.  Yes, the manuscript is complete and is currently being reviewed and edited for final publication. 

While writing the final chapters about the horrific events that had taken place leading to my courts-martial conviction, I suffered severe panic attacks, insomnia and other ailments, all the while I continued to provide advocacy support to other active duty officers who are still experiencing military work place abuse.

Yesterday I received an email from a retired Chief Warrant officer and he mentioned something that, as an African American female officer I was never properly prepared for;  the 3Rs, “rank/race/relationships”.   As I continued to climb the ladder of success I was coming closer and closer to the proverbial glass ceiling.

In my story I describe how on the afternoon of my promotion ceremony to Lt. Commander, in the summer of 2006, I was told by a senior white commander, “Welcome to the “Big Boys Club”, it’s no longer what you know “kiddo” it’s who you know!” 

Wow, I was either blind or stupid to think that I would be fully accepted as an equal, which is definitely an obstacle any minority serving in our military is bound to face.  Furthermore, regardless of the branch of service or a person’s race, gender or sexual orientation once you go against the grain of their creed you will be permanently oust!

 In the meantime, I would like to share an excerpt from one of my chapters titled, "Unequal Employment Opportunity"...

“In the Navy there exist a barbaric culture which consists of a Good ol’ Boys or big brother mentality and includes groups that are divided between the “haves and the have not’s.” Those who speak out against wrongful acts being committed by their superiors are targeted and unlawfully abused.  The victim will then undergo a character assassination and his career will be destroyed. Once a service member becomes targeted, the systematic processes which are supposed to be in place to provide a remedy against workplace abuse - are used as a means to simply gather incriminating information. The information is later used against the person, to further abuse them for challenging the system.

This secondary abuse comes from those who were not initially involved in the wrongful act, but instead, their role is to cover-up the actions of those who committed the wrongs.  The secondary abuse usually comes from the seniors of the abusive person and is sometimes the most heinous. As a result, those who were deemed unworthy, have an additional risk of being continuously abused without any avenues for relief.  Once a service member attempts to utilize the military’s policies and procedures which are governed by law, designed to uphold our equal employment rights, they will eventually learn that such policies are just mere proposals of justices that are never enforced. 

Those who are in power and have the ability to prevent unlawful treatment and workplace abuse against military veterans will profess in public to have: “honor, courage and commitment”.  Yet behind the military’s iron curtain, they secretly hide and band together to protect and cover-up their dirty secrets of corruption and human rights violations.  This problem has become so systemic it is detrimental to the oaths of office we take.  Because punishment is rarely taken against the abuser it sends a false message that workplace abuse is condoned all throughout our military.

In President Johnson’s 1965 executive order, he laid out a policy for equal employment opportunities for all federal agencies.  It specified rules and penalties by stating: “The Secretary of Labor shall, in appropriate cases, notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, or other appropriate Federal agencies whenever it has reason to believe that the practices of any such labor organization or agency violate Title VI or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or other provision of Federal law.”  

Unfortunately, the defense department’s equal opportunity policies currently mandate that a service member must first notify his immediate chain of command on all issues involving civil rights violations; this includes allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault.  These policies are designed as a means to camouflage unlawful practices of racism and sexism, which still exist in the military.   Senior Pentagon officials are given the authority to establish its own rules and regulations which has become a strategically designed weapon system used to quarantine all evidence of civil rights violations. 

While the average working American has the right to file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), military veterans are not afforded such luxury. The EEOC is an independent federal law enforcement agency that investigates complaints and enforces laws against discrimination in the workplace.  Unfortunately the EEOC has no jurisdiction over the military’s equal opportunity program.  The Secretary of Defense is responsible to the President and Congress for the overall management of the military’s equal opportunity program.  Yet management responsibility is later delegated to senior military officials who are left to manage and supervise themselves. 

Having federal authority to manage a problem that has become so systemic in abusing its workers could only be remedied by one cure; strict enforcement of the recommendations outlined in the Congressional diversity report,  or amend the CRA altogether.  In the interim, once a service member reports a violation of his civil rights, it is immediately reported directly to the Pentagon.  Depending on the severity of the violation, the Pentagon will appoint a military lawyer to investigate the allegations. The case is then managed by several layers of the complainant’s chain of command and the final investigation report is typically “watered down” before it reaches the desk of the applicable service secretary, in my case the Secretary of the Navy.  If a complaint ever makes it to the desk of the Secretary of Defense, the findings are watered down even more. I’ve never heard of a complaint ever reaching that level.

Although I was never physically raped in the legal definition of the word, I feel as though I’d been mentally raped by my military superiors.  Because of the 1950s Feres Doctrine, military rape victims are not able to sue the government for monetary compensation, or anyone else for that matter. For two years I was denied my right to equal employment opportunities and my military superiors had forced me to stay at home.  I was unlawfully directed to call to report in each morning no later than 07:30 a.m.  This was the extent of my so-called military duties.  Each time I requested to be gainfully employed, to be allowed to work in my chosen field, my requests were denied. I encountered additional threats.  The abusive treatment was later reported in my second reprisal complaint. 

On several occasions, I requested a permanent transfer to a different command just to avoid additional abuse. My commanding officer refused to transfer me because it would relinquish his legal jurisdiction over me. Throughout my case, I encountered a significant number of senior white officers who would say to me, “You need to be punished for what you did!” The first ones to openly express their racist opinion were..... 

 Each of them wanted to let me know of their disapproval of what they perceived as a black officer being disobedient towards them.  As fellow military officers, they never stopped to consider they were violating my constitutional rights.They had a professional and legal responsibility to protect and uphold my rights, not violate them.  But who was I to think my rights would ever be upheld in the military?  What I was sadly experiencing was the same racism and inhumane treatment that was inflicted upon my dad, my uncle, and other black veterans and minorities who served in the U.S. military before, during and after the Vietnam War era. Unfortunately, military members have limited opportunities to exercise their constitutional rights and they are treated as if they are government property.

As much as my military superiors hated me and were salivating to strip me of my officer uniform, days had longed past when blacks were considered as property.  When whipping and lynching disobedient black folks was considered constitutional. Because the military has its own investigative and judicial system which is comprised of military lawyers, courts and prisons, if an active duty person steps too far out of line – like I did - they can be targeted to be punished and sent to prison. 

After I blew the whistle on their military corruption (fraud activity) I never received whistle blower protection and was later selectively prosecuted for minor offenses which certainly didn’t warrant a trial by military courts-martial.  My superiors felt that they could operate above constitutional law and made a mockery of the federal judicial system.   I was denied my 5th and 14th amendment rights to due process of the law.  Throughout my case, I was also denied my 6th amendment right to a speedy trial, or fair trial by a jury of my (minority) peers. When I was subsequently discharged from the Navy without my retirement pension, I was furthered denied my 8th amendment right and was subjected to excessive cruel and unusual punishment.

For years I never wanted to view my situation as a black or white issue because I was simply trying to uphold my fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayers. But once I uncovered evidence of my superior’s criminal activity I was no longer viewed as a fellow Naval officer.  I was labeled as an “angry black women” who needed to be reminded of my place, in their Navy. Behind closed doors they most likely said, “Who in the hell does this black bitch think she is?  She must’ve forgotten that we make the rules, which are designed for us to break them.  And it’s high time we teach her black ass a lesson!” 
No one wants to believe a story like mine or any other story regarding the struggles of African Americans being denied their equal employment opportunity rights.  If I hadn't found myself walking in the same shoes or along the same path of the untold stories of historic civil rights activists, it would be difficult for me to believe my own story. The courageous pioneers of the civil rights movement sacrificed their lives every day during the movement, demanding fair and equality of all African Americans, even while their own human rights were being violated…"


Anonymous said...

I always knew there was a whole lot more to this bizarre story!

Anonymous said...

Many people actually can believe a story such as yours, but it can happen to anyone who blows the whistle, without regard to color.
When absolute power corrupts absolutely, we see situations such as yours. You do the right thing and report the violations, as anyone is supposed to do, but those with the power who must cover-up to ensure their next promotion begin the all-too familiar retaliation.
Eventually enough people are involved, and named as contributors to the on-going misdeeds, that it becomes too big and potentially too embarrassing to have it exposed. Then, it becomes necessary for the Inspectors General to “get onboard” with the cover-up. In your case, I recall you mentioning the likes of Jill Loftus, the former Deputy Navy Inspector General. And Leonard C. Trahan Jr., the principle cover-up enabler with the Defense Department Inspector General. You don’t hear too much from them anymore. Jill, who appears to have earned the name “Queen of Denial” for her cover-up efforts with the Navy Inspector General, got a promotion to the head of the Navy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO). Then, she started blaming the victims, you know, women who are sexually assaulted, because in her new position she failed when assaults actually increased. She expressed concern that people weren’t reporting assaults, but failed to connect the “failure to report” to the fact that in her previous position, she aided in the cover-ups, earning the name “Queen of Denial.”
Now that the military may actually be stripped of some authority in sexual assault cases after a top military person over-turned a conviction not based on facts but because he had the power to do so, there is another black eye for those in positions of power. With a history of not caring, the Inspectors General will probably continue selective cover-ups until they are stripped of more and more authority. Someday we may actually see the right thing being done, and more people caught like MG Ralph O. Baker. But until then, the likes of John B. Sturges will continue to get a free pass, William H. Weinfurtner will continue to troll for sex with complete protection, and whoever is in charge and needing to cover-up to ensure they get their next promotion will continue to do so and the IG will mostly look the other way with a simple phone call to the likes of Leonard or Jill claiming that there was no wrongdoing. A lot more change needs to come and many more heads need to roll before we are free of the abuses of power.