FDNY as Snack: Nuts and Crackers, Mostly.

Mayor Bloomberg on the idea that the buck stops with him: “I don’t know what the word ‘Responsible’ is.”

In New York, in the 1840’s and 50’s, if you were white, Irish  and Catholic, you had a tough row to hoe, potatoes or not. Protestants of British-Scots origin created a nativist movement which engaged in wholesale and pervasive discrimination against Irish and German immigrants and Catholics.  Secret societies sprang up, known as “Know-Nothings” dedicated to fighting the presence and alleged influence of these newly arrived immigrants.

Then as now, jobs, power and patronage were at stake.  Those with power, that is white protestants with British lineage, were dis-inclined to give way to others who might dilute their control or take jobs.  It was a bitter fight based largely on religion and language as the participants were racially homogeneous.

160 years later, the fight over jobs and power continues with an ironic change in cast members.  Those hyper-proud British descendants clamoring to protect their turf have been supplanted, at least in the fire department, by a phalanx of Irish and Italian white men manning the ramparts against the newest enemies, Blacks and Hispanics.  And, they have proven quite effective at guarding their very ivory towers.

 

It is somewhere between astonishing and just plain unbelievable that in a city the size of New York, where 26% of the residents are black, that FDNY is 97% white.  How can this be rationally explained?

US District Court Judge Nicholas  Garaufis’s conclusion is that the FDNY discriminates, with the Mayor’s full support, against minority citizens on a massive and pervasive scale.  Garaufis has issued a series of findings illustrating a nearly forty-year pattern of intentional discriminatory practises which spans 6 mayors and ten fire commissioners.  He concludes that FDNY is “segregated-in-fact.”  He’s right, except in this case the segregation consists of what amounts to a conspiracy to deny employment.

 

Amazingly, it was the Justice Department of then President George W. Bush that sued the city over its conduct.  That should give you some idea how bad things are.  The Justice Dept.  and others have pointed out that FDNY fails to measure up in terms of:  the city population, other city uniformed services, or similar large US fire departments.  It is a cracker box on the Hudson overseen by the wacky and ultra-wealthy meshugana*-mayor Micheal Bloomberg.

 

% Blacks/Population                             % Blacks in FD                             (2005)

Philly                43.2%                                              26.3

Chicago            36.8                                                 20.4

New York        26.6                                                   2.9

 

Mayor Bloomberg’s conduct is inexplicable.  He is looking more and more like a modern day Orval Faubas.  He has stone-walled and ignored every attempt to implement real change.  Where his policies and leadership are concerned he is as racist as Ross Barnett opposing James Meredith’s admission to Ole Miss.  At least Barnett was an ignorant redneck.  Just what is Bloomberg’s excuse?  Of course, he has his britches seriously wedged over a federal judge setting city policy, but what about the progressive reformer out to make New York better, more accountable and more effective?  Is his legacy to line up with all the other recent mayors in perpetuating this decades-long farce?

And it is a farce.  The forces of the status-quo have successfully (and ridiculously) framed the argument around recruitment, the lowest common denominator possible.  This forward defense means that real change is decades away, if it comes at all.  What about actually hiring qualified minorities? What about the relatively few current minority employees?  What can be done to recruit them into positions of additional responsibility, visibility and authority?

The judge focuses in on the “bureaucratic blame-shifting and accountability avoidance” used by FDNY and City leaders to prevent them from taking any action.  Here’s Commissioner Cassano on the fire department’s role: “All we can do…is recruit as many minority candidates as we can… That’s the Fire Department’s involvement in the process.”  And, his reaction to the fact that NYPD’s Black and Hispanic percentage is over 50%: “I’m not aware of it but I don’t see what the difference is.  I run the Fire Department not the Police Department.”  Where the Department’s recruitment efforts are concerned, Cassano said, “I think we are doing a very good job.”  It does make you wonder what a bad job would be.  Or, perhaps he is referring to their job keeping them out of FDNY.

The billionaire mayor is seriously pissed off and because he does what he wants, anyway, he has sent his staff attorneys off to the US Court of Appeals to put Judge Garaufis in his place.  Because the numbers speak for themselves, Bloomberg and his lackeys are left to attack the messenger as being unfair and inequitable.  The irony is crushing.

Why should you care about this?  It’s simple.  FDNY is the most revered fire department, period.  They are copied and imitated in ways too numerous to even begin to list.  Even a federal judge alludes to FDNY as being the best job in the world.  (Shouldn’t Blacks and Hispanics be afforded a fair opportunity at that “best job” without a pitched battle?)  FDNY is so famous, so integral to the American Fire Service, that it transcends quantification.  And, while rampant discrimination in FDNY is hardly a blot on the American Fire Service, our silence about it is.  So, speak up about it–urge them to change.  Here as elsewhere, silence equals agreement.  Who knows?  Your voice may be the one that makes the difference.

But, some courage of conviction is probably required.

 

*- a crazy person

Judge Garaufis’s decision:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/10/05/nyregion/06fire-decision-document.html

Credits:  NYT, NYDN, NYP, Wiki, Garaufis decision

 

6 Comments

  • Amanda says:

    http://meritmattersusa.blogspot.com/

    Just out of curiosity have you checked out this site? Some good info and insight into this “issue”

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Dear Amanda:

      I approved your comment though it isn’t really a comment, but rather a way to have a website highlighted. After all of the yammering is over (especially mine) it comes down to just three numbers: 26%, 97% and 3%. I note that you don’t mention them because there is no effective counter-argument.

      Thanks for “writing.”

      Eric

  • Amanda says:

    You are correct in the fact that there was no counter argument. I read your article and digested the facts you presented. I think you mention some good things. I was just asking if you had looked at websites such as this, and your opinion of them. I don’t know about highlighting a website nor is there any reason for me to wish to promote this particular one, as much as there would be to promote http://www.fireemsblogs.com, I think they are both great websites with great information. I did not mention the numbers 26%, 97% and 3% because I clearly understood those numbers and had no questions about them, I was just wondering if you had checked out the other site and your thoughts on it. No argument or counter- arugment necessary.

  • Joe says:

    Eric,

    I’d like to preface this with the fact that I’m not a “writer” or blogger of any kind, so please excuse any grammatical errors, just focus on some facts. Also realize that this case has been going on for years, with literally thousands upon thousands of court documents, it’s impossible for your, I or anyone else to summarize it with a few short paragraphs.

    26%, 97% and 3%. In this blog you take massive issue with these numbers, and allude to some conspiracy to keep minorities out of the FDNY. The 1999 and 2002 exams which were originally part of this litigation were simple reading comprehension exams, thats it, and both exams are available online if you wanted to check them out for yourself. In 2007, the exam took on the look of most other fire department entrance exams around the country where there was a small amount of reading comprehension and a lot of “personality questions”. This test produced the desired result of almost exact percentages of minorities in the range most likely to be hired as took the exam, however during the litigation it was found that the creation of the exam was flawed so the exam could not be used.

    Your article bashes the FDNY’s focus on recruitment, however I don’t see any better way to diversify the department. After all, if you hire minorities in the proportion to which they take the exam, down the line, the department will reflect those numbers. Will it happen overnight? Obviously not, but without massive quota’s, there is no other way. Also as a side note, Philadelphia and Chicago operated under a quota system of hiring for years.

    The article makes mention about the NYPD having greater than 50% minority employees. There are actually two easy explanations to this, one the work force is five times the size of the FDNY, and the second is that the NYPD essentially hires everyone who passes the exam sooner or later.

    Also as a recruitment tool, a ‘promotion to firefighter’ system was established for FDNY EMS members wishing to cross to the suppression side of the department. One only needs to pass the entrance exam and can be hired before anyone on the open competitive list, this system was set in place due to the heavy minority workforce of the EMS division.

    The article is obviously not a fan of the “meshugana” mayor Bloomberg, and due to his treatment of the FDNY, I’m not either. However, I’d like to quote him from his weekly radio show “equal opportunity does not guarantee equal results”. The city and the FDNY went far out of their way, especially in 2007, to recruit and make sure minority candidates did very well on the exam.

    Judge Garaufis mentioned during litigation, but refuses to address, what is the real problem behind this. It’s simple to say but impossible to fix, and that is the socio-economic factors that are in play here. Unfortunately inner city kids, especially inner city minority kids do not do well on standardized tests. This isn’t a racist comment by the way, you could get the same standardized test results by giving the exam in the Appalachian mountains. But again, there is really nothing that can be done about this, the most important, factor.

    Here is a great article on the subject:

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-12-15/news/fdny-extrance-exam-non-white-hiring/

  • CCFR 371 says:

    So just a thought on this crazy topic that will surely get me run through the coals… why does it matter? I am not saying it is right for ANY department, or business for that matter, to discriminate based on race. However, I also think if the numbers were reversed no one would cover the story. This type of thing is easily prevented if we can just remove the race from applications. My point in all of this is simple; do you want a fire department that is staffed based on the racial statistics from the city? Or would you rather have a department that is staffed 100% by men and women who had a calling to the fire service and live/love the job 24/7? Until we stop focusing on racism, it will never go away. I say get the best people for the job, period.

  • Jack Rhem says:

    There may be an argument against the FDNY’s demographic, but this is not one. There is no counter argument to be made as the opinion above does not constitute an argument.

    Intellectually vacuous ?

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