1. #1
    TruroFAO
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post racism in the fire service

    Hi-

    I'm wondering about anyone's experience with co-workers who were bigots or racists, and how you resolved the problem. Any thoughts or experiences are greatly appreciated...Thanks...

  2. #2
    DFD132
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Exclamation

    I still don't understand why we still hold onto racism. I think after all these years we would all learn to just get along. I'm White and Some of my friends are black. I'll bet anyone that if a white guy and a black guy cut themselves they both bleed red. Where all the same underneith our skin. I'm very proud of our brother Firefighters who happen to have a different shade of skin. I just like to reach out my hand and Say thankyou for your stregth and courage. No matter White or Black we are all here to do the same job and when a firefighter lose's his/her life to the animal it shouldn't matter what color you are there still a brother/sister fireman who deserves the same respect as anybody else.

  3. #3
    ladyfirefighter
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Unfortunately racism and bigotry are alive and well in America. It happens to people of different races, women, the old, and just about anyone who is in the situation of being a minority.

    I hope everyone here can agree with me when I say I don't care who or what you are! When we put on the gear we are all the same... Firefighters!

    ------------------
    Stay Safe...
    Rebecca Richardson FF/EMT
    Isles of Capri Fire Rescue
    South Florida


  4. #4
    BucksEng91
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Angry

    You want to see racism? Look at the affirmative action hiring policies of many big-city departments over the last 20 years. Lowered standards, artificial grade inflation based on race or gender, and city administrators falling all over themselves to appear "diversity sensitive".

    Now THAT'S racism.

    ------------------
    J. Black

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated.

  5. #5
    Lewiston2Capt
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Angry

    Contrary to a previous post, racism does not only affect minorities. Racism is a swoard that cuts both ways. Anybody can be a racist. True, minorities have been on the recieving end of alot of it but, it is bcoming more common to see racism going the opposite direction. Some say it is like the old adage,"What goes around, comes around". I dont see it that way, vengance only makes the problem worse.

    Just my two pennys worth.

  6. #6
    BucksEng91
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    In response to the original post - I've never experienced racism in the fire service. In fact, I think that, contrary to what many people think, you'd be hard pressed to find the kind of hard-core racism against blacks that existed in this country 40 to 50 years ago.

    In my humble opinion, and this is only my opinion, so take of it what you will - "racism" as we define it today is an outdated concept kept alive by charlatans and race-baiters like the "Reverend" Jesse Jackson, the "Reverend" Al Sharpton, and "Minister" Louis Farrakhan. It's in their best interest to foster and foment hatred between the races (although they, of course, would say that they're fighting for 'civil rights'), because if they don't, their jobs, money, and power base goes away.

    So-called "systemic" racism is one of those "big lies" as well - while these self-appointed "civil rights" leaders (God, Dr. King must be turning in his grave right now) would have you believe otherwise, they can't have it both ways - either blacks are oppressed and repressed, or they're part of the power structure. I don't know if you've checked lately, but there are/have been black American senators, congressmen, state reps, mayors, police chiefs, fire chiefs, generals, chairmen of the JCS, CEOs, lawyers, clergymen, journalists, college professors...in short, black Americans are inextricably interwoven into the fabric of our society - as they should be. If America is "racist", then these people are complicit in the racism. It just doesn't add up - you can't have it both ways. Just pray for the day that people's eyes open to this charade, and then maybe we'll be able to move on.

    ------------------
    J. Black

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated.

    [This message has been edited by BucksEng91 (edited 02-21-2001).]

  7. #7
    Althea Forhan
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Racism is not cool-thats my message to little kids, not-so-little-kids, and the rest of the world. I've always thought you'd have to be really stupid to think Facism was a good idea. Remember that Racists are their own group, not associated with anybody but themselves.
    Althea

  8. #8
    TruroFAO
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Hi guys-

    Thanks for the replies thus far...It's good to listen to experiences from across the country and hear different views....

    I want to speak to Bucks' replies, if I could...I've been reading some of the posts, and find you to be a very knowledgable person...

    While I would submit affirmative action was at sometime in the past a needed thing, I feel perhaps it has litlived it's usefulness, or at least needs to be reformed. Anytime we 'lower' standards for professions like the one we are in, it puts people lives in danger.

    I'll also admit that I have at time been a perpetrator or reverse racism. Don't everyone jump on me here, but sometimes some white people **** me off. I'm half Japanese and half Jewish, so I'm a bit of a 'mutt'. They don't seem to sometimes understand what it's like to not be in the majority, and that some people (not all, I know most people are inherintly good-hearted) still have this superiority complex about non-white males.

    I think extremists like Sharpton, Farakhan and Jackson do little to mend the ways of past problems in our country. Though they vent the anger that many minorities feel, acting out this type of anger accomplishes little. But I think in your post, you focused mainly on blacks, and not so much on the many many other minorities in the country. I would also agree that looking at past mistakes we've made is good to learn on, but dwelling on them and using them as a crutch does nothing. I do appreciate your taking the time to write- I do value your opinions, I find you to be a very intelligent person...This is just what I think...

    I'd like to refocus the topic....

    I'd like to hear of anyone who has experienced or has been a victim of racism or bigotry, and how the situation worked out. I've found myself to be the victim of various little 'pot-shots' cause of the way I look, and it's getting old. If I speak up, I fear repercussion cause I'm the only non-white in the department. What do I do?

    [This message has been edited by TruroFAO (edited 02-13-2001).]

  9. #9
    BucksEng91
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Hi Truro -

    Geez, thanks for the kind words. I'm gonna blush, here. I know you want to refocus, but let me add just a few more comments, since I've thought a lot about this.

    You said, "I think extremists like Sharpton, Farakhan and Jackson do little to mend the ways of past problems in our country. Though they vent the anger that many minorities feel, acting out this type of anger accomplishes little." Agreed, but you don't go far enough. First of all, I would be very careful about portraying these guys as 'outsiders', or holding an 'extreme' point of view from the standpoint of their acceptance. While you and I can see and recognize that their message is 'extreme', I don't think that they've been marginalized because of it. Who are the first ones the news media runs to when they need a comment from a 'black leader'? I rest my case. Also, not only do they "not do little" to help race relations in this country - they actively and consciously do *damage* to such. With their outlandish demonizing of other races (Asians and Jews, ironically, are especially hard hit when these idiots open their mouths), they accomplish a two-fold result: they create and strengthen the stereotypes and animosity that many blacks hold against Jews, Asians, and any other convenient target, and second, they create animosity toward blacks by other races because they presume to speak for black Americans, and the media does nothing to disavow that perception.

    Also, you take me to task (in a nice way) for focusing on black Americans. There is a reason for this. Which racial or ethnic group in this country has "leaders" who take every opportunity to play the race card, injecting the "racism" charge into every nook and cranny of American life? This is not to say that "black Americans" as a whole, or as a representative group, feel this way on their own. But the "racism" cry has been used and used and used until it's lost most of its meaning. Now, it's racist to insist that standards be adhered to in hiring, admission to colleges, and so on. Now, just to take you as an example - how often do we see Jewish spokesmen/women blaming "racism" for every perceived slight? How often do we see Asian spokesmen/women screaming "racism"? Not that often, if at all.

    My point is this - the more we perpetuate this culture of victimization (which you're doing, whether you realize it or not), the more we're going to regress. You need to stand up for yourself as an individual, with individual worth and value. Don't define yourself by ethnicity - you run the risk of stereotyping yourself. In other words (and this is not meant to offend you), be a man, d*mmit! Stop relying on "racism" and victimhood. It'll make you a stronger, better person.

    OK, refocus away. Sorry about the dissertation.

    Stay safe!


    ------------------
    J. Black

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated.

  10. #10
    comwhite
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I'm a female elected to a position that historically has been male dominated, add to that my interest in Fire and Rescue without being a firefighter, and you come up with a "real minority". However, I have never considered myself oppressed by it. Yes, I've had to prove myself, and at times here, but I've done my homework, and I carry my load. I'm a strong willed individual with a lot of pride in myself and the job I do. I won't tolerate disrespect towards me, and I have a tendency of embarrassing those who try to put me down. I have found in my case, and I would bet in most cases, that discrimination occurs more within the group one is associated, such as in my case women discriminate against women, blacks against blacks, etc. In my opinion, Affirmative Action has held many down, that would have stood up and fought for what they wanted IF it had not been handed to them.

    Now to the topic. We have a small volunteer dept. that consists wholly of white men and women. I often wondered why there were no blacks associated, the men and women of the department aren't racists, nor bigots, but they are pure and simply country "rednecks". I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but in the way most people think of the term. I believe that the majority of blacks in our City see them that way, and can't believe they would be welcomed. Which is so far from the truth. The prejudism does not occur on the part of the dept., but on the part of the black community for not taking the opportunity to get to know these great guys.

  11. #11
    iwood51
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Originally posted by comwhite:
    I'm a female elected to a position that historically has been male dominated, add to that my interest in Fire and Rescue without being a firefighter, and you come up with a "real minority". However, I have never considered myself oppressed by it. Yes, I've had to prove myself, and at times here, but I've done my homework, and I carry my load. I'm a strong willed individual with a lot of pride in myself and the job I do. I won't tolerate disrespect towards me, and I have a tendency of embarrassing those who try to put me down. I have found in my case, and I would bet in most cases, that discrimination occurs more within the group one is associated, such as in my case women discriminate against women, blacks against blacks, etc. In my opinion, Affirmative Action has held many down, that would have stood up and fought for what they wanted IF it had not been handed to them.

    Now to the topic. We have a small volunteer dept. that consists wholly of white men and women. I often wondered why there were no blacks associated, the men and women of the department aren't racists, nor bigots, but they are pure and simply country "rednecks". I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but in the way most people think of the term. I believe that the majority of blacks in our City see them that way, and can't believe they would be welcomed. Which is so far from the truth. The prejudism does not occur on the part of the dept., but on the part of the black community for not taking the opportunity to get to know these great guys.

    First, one of the better commissioners we had was a woman. No problems/qualms from this end.

    Second, as far as you being a small rural dept that has mostly good old boys and girls as members, we're not as small (about 100 members, three stations covering approx 25,000 people), and we're the same way, white men and women. I don't think it's an issue of racism, but more an issue of the demographics of the town you live in. There was a lot more posted on this topic in a forum entitled blue collar vs. white collar if memory serves correctly.

    Third, keep up the good work with your posts, it's refreshing to see educated input from someone that while connected to the fire service, isn't in the front line. It gives a well rounded view on matters. Sometimes us hoseheads get tunnel vision from the SCBA facepiece

  12. #12
    BucksEng91
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I think the point of this, at least where this thread is heading, is that victimhood is unbecoming, especially in the fire service.

    Truro, if you're having problems because of your ethnicity, then you need to handle them like a professional, and confront the person(s) who are stereotyping you. Don't fall into the trap of saying, "woe is me, I'm (fill in your favorite 'victim' group)". Don't ever let someone define you by the way you look, or your ancestry. *YOU*, and only you, define yourself by your actions, attitudes, and by the degree to which you can succeed under adverse conditions. Having compassion, humility, ethics, and courage doesn't hurt either.

    I guess it boils down to this - crying "racism" or "bigotry" is the easy way out...people know it and will respect you less for it. When have we ever taken the "easy way" in the fire service? Stand up with courage and class, and stop thinking of yourself as a "minority". Plus, if you're afraid that somehow you'll be subject to repercussions because of your stand, then I would submit that you're severely underestimating your co-workers. Demand professionalism of yourself and those who you work with, at all times. It's when you start getting this defeatist, victimized attitude that you're least professional.

    Plus, I find it quite unlikely that there is some kind of monolithic conspiracy that's poised to smack you down if you stand up for yourself. If anything, the reaction I would expect is one of respect, grudging or otherwise, but respect nonetheless.

    Hope this helps. Take care, and stay safe!

    ------------------
    J. Black

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated.

    [This message has been edited by BucksEng91 (edited 02-13-2001).]

  13. #13
    Althea Forhan
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Unhappy

    I've been the victim of bigotry several times; I'm your typical mix of Irish, Norweigian, French, German, Dutch, and God-only-knows-what-else. Not the "normal" basis for hate,huh? Well, I have VERY short,until just recently green hair, wear a blue flight jacket, Doc Marten boots, cuffed 501's, and listen to ska music. I've been called a "freak","nazi"(NOT ANYWHERE NEAR TRUE),"pusher"(HA!)and "disgrace".
    But you see,I'm a Traditional Skinhead-hard working,ANTI-racist, clean, working class kid. Because I'm a Skin, I get classified as racist all the time. As far as I'm concerned, you've got to be stupid to think Hitler was a good man.

    Althea Forhan, 14

  14. #14
    comwhite
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    times are a changin'

    Althea,
    What you're experiencing probably isn't bigotry, it's scepticism. You proudly proclaim you're a "traditional skinhead", and then say you're not racist? Honey, unless the term has changed again, skinhead is synonymous with racist, white supremist, etc. Maybe I'm just getting old, and it means something entirely different now.

    In my opinion, bigotry and racism are based on factors that a person has no control over, which is quite different to dying your hair green, body piercings, etc. I don't think you're discriminated against because of your appearance, I think questioned might be a better word. But, I guess it still comes down to the same thing. If you feel good about it, be strong enough to defend your actions.

    If I'm wrong, I do apologize. Just an old fogey trying to understand why anyone would proudly call themselves a skinhead.

  15. #15
    TruroFAO
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Hi guys-
    Thanks so much for everyone's input on the subject. Iwood commented on how pleased he was over the level of conversation. I agree with him...I think the fire service encompases a lot of things, and unfortunately this is one of them.

    I don't want people to misunderstand me here. I'm not hiding behind the term 'racism', or at least I don't feel that I am. I have never, nor will I ever, use my ethnicity to explain or excuse anything. I don't want special treatment, exceptions based on my race, or anything else that makes me different. Though perhaps I'm different physically outward from some co-workers, that's where the differences end. I still get excited when tones drop, I still cry when a brother falls.

    Bucks made a good point about Sharpton, et. al. The news media does share a good deal of the blame here, too. They always seem eager to fuel the fire, so they go to people like them to get 'shock reactions' to add to their story. But for Sharpton and company to say the things they do certainly adds to the divisions in our nation. That's exactly what we don't need. Good point.

    Bucks also made refrence to the emergence of 'victimization' in our culture. Perhaps I am partaking in that, though I would hope I don't. Like I said, I don't approve of special anything based on race or ethnicity (sex too), and rewarding people because they're victims of past problems doesn't do much to make a person stronger. What's in the past is in the past. The key is understanding how to avoid the mistakes of the past. I understand your suggestion that I stand up to them (98% of our department are good people) and make them (the other 2%) understand that what they do is wrong. If they exhibited the kind of behavior in public that they do on station, we could easily be looking a lawsuit in the eyes right now. And maybe I just need thicker skin. We all need thicker skin at times... But we also all have one or two things that set us off, too. (They made some ching-chong joke about the Japanese who drowned off Hawaii in the Greenville accident..made me wanna beat the crap out of them...) But back on topic.

    I think I've come to the conclusion that aside from beating the crap out of these people, calling them on their sh*t is prolly the best way to deal....Bucks especially made me see this...Prolly just needed someone to tell me so...Thanks...I wish someone could explain to me, though, what makes people hate...One of the eternal questions...All the way through high school and through college, never had a problem... We all got along...Maybe educational institutions are little shelters from the world. Ah well....

    love the replies...keep 'em comin...

    Bucks- the same Bucks County in PA that gets lots of 2nd alm jobs? I read alot about ya'll on the WOF report from BNN.

  16. #16
    comwhite
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    TruroFAO,

    I honestly don't think beating the ***** out of them is going to get your point across. Sometimes a quiet look of disdain, or simply ignoring goes much further. You don't have to lower yourself to the other's level, nor do you have to fight your way out. You carry yourself with pride in yourself and your actions. When you decide to look at yourself differently, or like one of the guys Iguess, they will see you in that light. As long as you continue to think of yourself as different, you will probably be treated differently. First and foremost, treat yourself the way you want them to treat you.

  17. #17
    pyroknight
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Wink

    I only see two ways you can go with this. Since you know your coworkers better than we do, you'll have to ultimately decide what to do. I believe your first choice is to completely ignore any comments and thereby remove the fun of making them. If it's no fun to make fun of you it's not worth the effort. Your second option is to do as advised above and sit down with these guys individually (in a group you'll look like a whiner and the jibes will likely get worse) and let them know how you feel.

    Only you know if these guys will be receptive to your request. I would offer that fire departments (I've been a member of six of them in three states: Volunteer, Paid, Industrial) are a rough place to live. Emotional and physical horseplay are part of fire department tradition. I've been the butt of jokes because of my height, my weight, my perceived intelligence, my clumsiness, my ability to hit garage doors with apparatus, the amount of gear I carry on my belt or in my turnouts, etc., etc., etc.

    They're gonna pick on ya. If you eliminate the patina of your skin as an issue something else will more than likely take its place. You are who you are and you should be proud of that regardless of anyone else's remarks. Laugh with 'em. Ask 'em to stop. You decide, then be ready to make your decision work.

    Good luck!

  18. #18
    S. Cook
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    "I'm your typical mix of......God-only-knows-what-else."

    Aren't most Americans a typical mix of God only knows what?

    Haven't had any experinces with co-workers, but I have from patients. They didn't think I would care for them as well as I should because we weren't the same color.

    Racism, what a wasted emotion.

  19. #19
    Catch
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I may be at risk of getting reemed over this, but oh well....
    From what I've seen, most of those who scream "racism" are those who expect things to be handed to them. As mentioned, there are blacks, hispanics, asians, native americans, women, etc. in very high positions across this nation's fire service. However, each one busted their butts to get there. They deserve the position they got because they worked for it, not because they were a "minority."
    Now, I have never once experienced discrimination, nor reverse-discrimination, within emergency services as much as I have outside of it. Is it possible us public servants have a higher respect for humanity? I'd like to think so.
    It seems racism has changed since the days of Dr. King. Those who are fighting for "Civil Rights" aren't fighting for equality, but rather to be handed what they think they deserve instead of working for it.

    Just my two cents.

  20. #20
    TruroFAO
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    Just to put your mind at ease comwhite, beating them was just sarcasm...Much as I might like to, it was just a thought...

    I too thought we, as public servants, have a higher regard for humanity and life, and this is why I've brought this up...Thanks to everyone for their civility on this post...

    Keep it coming...

  21. #21
    nsgff
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Exclamation

    I am in no way a racist but I dont agree with affirmative action. I think that it was a good idea until they put it into action. It would have been more realistic 30 to 40 years ago. We are all the same, human. I dont think that because or the color of skin or the sex of the applicant, the most qualified applicant for the job should be hired. In a previous post someone said that if anybody on this earth cuts them self, the blood is red. Thats exactly right so let the best man or woman win.

  22. #22
    BucksEng91
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Hi, Truro -

    Good luck with it. Also, someone on here gave some good advice about horseplay - we've all experienced it. Make sure that what you're experiencing is not just a case of good-natured b*ll-busting. That goes on all the time in the fire service. Thicker skin helps in that case.

    Also - I wouldn't be so quick to characterize it as "hate". Ignorance, maybe; stupidity, even. But hate is a strong word, that connotes an evil, conscious, and focused intent.

    Otherwise, sounds to me like you're ready to face this head on. Good luck, brother.

    And, yep - I'm from that very same Bucks County PA with the 2-alarmers...

    Be safe!

    ------------------
    J. Black

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated.

  23. #23
    TruroFAO
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    Wow..Didn't expect the post would get so much traffic, but I'm glad, cause at least this way we can all talk about what's on our minds...Thanks to everyone for their input...

    Bucks, re your past post....We all horseplay at the station. Every station does. It was said previously that it's part of the fire service...True that...

    A couple cases may have to do with ignorance, but a couple others are from hate. I see it in their eyes. But I think the forum has given me the perspective I needed to understand better how to tackle this...

    I'd be interested to see what others have to say...Keep it coming....

    I think ladyfirefighter's posting near the top really summed it up...You go, girl!

    Bucks- Where in the state is your station? I have some friends at Aston Twp near Philly....

    man...Wouldn't it be nice if all the forums were civil...We all get along despite our differences and still manage to learn...What an amazing concept...

    [This message has been edited by TruroFAO (edited 02-14-2001).]

  24. #24
    BucksEng91
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Truro -

    I'm in Warminster, which is north of Philly by about 30 miles or so. We have a good mix of commercial, industrial, residential, and high-occupancy structures, plus an ex-Naval Air Weapons Center that's slowly turning into industrial and recreational use.

    My department has three stations, one in the center of the township, and two on the east and west ends. I'm at the east end station. We have a total of 11 apparatus - 3 pumpers, 1 ladder, 1 heavy rescue, 4 chief's SUVs, and 2 special service / utility trucks.

    Unfortunately, we're not yet online. That'll change soon, I hope.

    Tell us a little about your department.



    ------------------
    J. Black

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated.

  25. #25
    Althea Forhan
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Originally posted by comwhite:
    times are a changin'

    Althea,
    What you're experiencing probably isn't bigotry, it's scepticism. You proudly proclaim you're a "traditional skinhead", and then say you're not racist? Honey, unless the term has changed again, skinhead is synonymous with racist, white supremist, etc. Maybe I'm just getting old, and it means something entirely different now.

    In my opinion, bigotry and racism are based on factors that a person has no control over, which is quite different to dying your hair green, body piercings, etc. I don't think you're discriminated against because of your appearance, I think questioned might be a better word. But, I guess it still comes down to the same thing. If you feel good about it, be strong enough to defend your actions.

    If I'm wrong, I do apologize. Just an old fogey trying to understand why anyone would proudly call themselves a skinhead.
    The term has not changed recently-Original, Traditional Skins are not racist-the guys with the shaved bald heads, red bootlaces, and swastikas everywhere are called "Boneheads" and are shunned competly by Traditionals. Being proud to be a Skin is like being proud to be a union member. We Skins have just gotten bad press due to some people who call themselves Skinheads. The popular beleif of Skinhead/Racist is about as accurate as German/Nazi.

    Much of the bigotry I've encountered has been based on financial status , not just the hair. Most of the stuff based on my appearence has been initiated by people I know. As Kermit The Frog would say, "It's not easy being green"

    Althea
    For a complete history go to: http://www.macropolis.freeserve.co.uk/

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