Slavery Abolished? Really?

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Readers recall in my last column, “Modern Slavery Massapequa Style,â€? I exposed the extent of bias in Long Island’s “justiceâ€? system where a “Hate Crime,â€? continues to be overlooked (those who missed that column can search Black Star News’s archives). A house wife who does not work, physically abused the Nanny who was hired to live in the house, prepare all the meals, clean, run errands and care for three very young boys – doing just about all the duties a wife does absent being romantic with the husband (more about this later).  However, many domestic workers are no strangers to racism, sex, or rape in the work place and this case is no different.

A civil suit is now pending against Donald and Fontaine Sheridan, 46; it was filed in Brooklyn County and has since been kicked over to be heard in Suffolk County Central Islip.  It appears, in an attempt to soften Cindy Carter’s, 31, lawsuit, the Sheridan’s appeared on television showing pictures purporting to show “happy daysâ€? on the plantation. The “Massasâ€? have announced their own “lawsuitâ€? against Carter for defamation, at the same time calling Carter’s civil lawsuit a “Money grab.â€? 
After speaking with Mrs. Sheridan by telephone and asking her about Carter, she would only say, “I have no comment.  You can speak with my attorney in Amityville.â€? Then she quickly ended the call. Her attorney could not be reached for comment before press time.

When Carter dialed 911, as readers recall two Nassau police cars arrived from the 7th precinct – Carter told police Sheridan assaulted her and stated, “I want her to be arrested.â€?  She was still lying on the ground –in the driveway—when the police observed her.  “They saw my foot bleeding.  These two police cars are now in front of the house and neighbors are passing in their cars looking at me as if this Black woman did something to this white woman,â€? Carter recalls.

To add insult to injury, the police ignored Carter’s request to arrest Fontaine Sheridan and instructed her that Sheridan wanted her “off her property.â€? This is after she had been beaten senseless. “I was the one in pain.  I was embarrassed, nothing happened to Mrs. Sheridan,â€? Carter states.  “Fontaine would tell me not to tell anyone what goes on in the house and said no one would believe me over her.  She threatened to have me deported if I talked.â€?

The Nassau District Attorney Office failed to charge Fontaine Sheridan with a Hate Crime, after Carter complained about being crushed to a pulp on the morning of July 6, 2005, and called a “Fucking stupid nigger,â€? at the same time.  “The DA told me Fontaine could not be charged with a hate crime because she was my employer,â€? Cater said, referring to Assistant District Attorney Michael Canty. And who said slavery was abolished?

Donald Sheridan works in the technology department at Swiss Bank UBS. They deal in multi-billions of dollars in these institutions. He hired Carter and paid her only $300 in cash a week, which is below minimum wage. He allegedly avoided paying taxes or contributions to the workers compensation fund. I contacted UBS top-level management to comment on Mr. Sheridan’s actions and to learn if these practices are common in the UBS work place.  Mark Arena, UBS spokesperson fired off this statement in response: “Based on what we currently understand, we regard this as a personal matter and have no further comment.â€? And who said slavery was abolished?

Carter who still uses a cane to get around was not given any medical attention the day of the assault. The next day she dialed 911 again and was taken to the emergency room by ambulance – She was treated and released for a lower back and left leg injury she sustained at the hands of Fontaine Sheridan. 

It became a, ‘Judgment call,’ for these police officers when they were faced with making an arrest, with race and status playing a major role. Black Nanny vs. White Employer and husband who works at white shoe multi-billion dollar bank. The “lawâ€? took a back seat. 

Apparently the officer’s judgment has proven to be a bad one. They were so wrong that even they knew they were wrong. On July 9th, three days after Carter was assaulted, the Nassau police called Mrs. Sheridan at her home and she went to the 7th precinct on her own to be arrested. Wouldn’t we all like to be “arrested� that way? “Sheridan was booked and back home within an hour,� Carter tells me.

Let’s reverse this for one minute. Cindy Carter, a Black nanny from Barbados attacks Fontaine Sheridan a respected White homemaker in Massapequa Park, by pushing her, hitting her, calling her a “White honkie,â€? and knocking her to the ground causing her to bleed and fearing for her life – what do you think would had happened next? A SWAT team and a bullet-riddled body maybe? Or if she was lucky, Carter would have been thrown to the ground at gun-point, handed cuffed with a knee in her upper-back, thrown into a squad car and taken to the Nassau County jail – where she would still be today, awaiting a trial and facing deportation.  Are we seeing a double standard here? You damn right we are.

Before Sheridan entered a guilty plea to mere harassment and was sentenced to serve only 50-hours of community service, Carter addressed the court. “When I was given a chance to speak to the judge in my case – the judge wasn’t listening to me.  He was talking to the bailiff. I don’t think he heard or wanted to hear what I had to say,â€? Carter recalls. “I was very dissatisfied with what happened in the courtroom, I cried because this was not right.â€? Again—please tell me, who said slavery was abolished?

“We here at the NAACP know that this is a Hate Crime and discrimination, but the DA’s office did not seem to want to go that way, with the DA getting Sheridan to serve 50-hours of community service, which I find ludicrous and ridiculous,â€? states Douglas Mayers, Long Island’s President of the Freeport-Roosevelt NAACP.  “Long Island has a history of locking up Blacks and giving them high bail, when whites are given less time for doing the same crime.â€?

A well-respected Nassau attorney, Dr. Glen Vickers Bey –now suspended from practicing law—gave me a copy of the April 1991 “New York State Judicial Commission on Minoritiesâ€? report.  One of the findings in this report was that, “Court personnel are frequently disrespectful and discourteous to minority litigants, family members and witnesses. They refer to them by derogatory terms such as skell (defined as “bum, worthless person, trash, and nigger.â€?) I suggest we all get a copy of that report.

There are still a lot of loose ends to Carter’s case and the criminal part is a big mess.  The Nassau District Attorney Office is still conducting their investigation about the handling of this case. Carter still needs lots of support after just paying her December rent by the skin of her teeth.  After a Manhattan radio show read my column and invited Carter on air, many callers wondered loudly: “Why did Carter stay with her employer if she was being treated so badly?â€? You have to put yourself in Carter’s shoes to really know the answer.  The United States is known as a place of opportunity. Carter worked countless hours to share her meager wages with her mother back home in Barbados. To do so, she made many sacrifices along her journey to hell in Massapequa.  Some may second-guess Carter’s actions because they think – they’re free. But, need I ask you one more time? Who said….?

If you have any comments contact Winkfield or for his consideration regarding covering your own story. If you would like to help Carter in any way write to [email protected] or call (212) 481-7745. Recently, The New York Daily News published my comments about a major scandal about Sexual harassment involving Norman Seabrook at NYC’s Correction Department. Write to me: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423 or email:  [email protected].  Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.

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