Incidents of fire departments discriminating against Black firefighters are commonplace, but now they are also getting it from the public.
An Oakland Hills resident called the police to report an African-American firefighter doing a city-mandated inspection with the Oakland Fired Department, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Monday (June 25).
The person questioned and videotaped the firefighter because he looked suspicious—even though he was in full uniform with a parked fire truck nearby.
Each summer, the firefighters are tasked with inspecting vegetation growth in the neighborhood to remove potential wildfire hazards, such as tree limbs hanging near chimneys. The job often requires them to conduct inspections in backyards.
“It’s extremely unfortunate. From the outside, it certainly appears to be unfair and unwarranted. The fire service is a microcosm of the world. Racism exists in the world, and it exists in Oakland and everywhere else,” Capt. Damon Covington, president of the Oakland Black Firefighters Association, told the newspaper.
This incident comes as several Los Angeles firefighters are moving forward with their discrimination lawsuit against the Los Angeles Fire Department, after a judge gave the go-ahead on June 22, radio station KNX10.70 reported.
“The LAFD is essentially an all-white boys club, and anyone who fails to align themselves with this mentality is looked down upon and treated differently,” the firefighters alleged in their lawsuit.
In another recent case, the Aurora Fire Department in Colorado paid $480,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit that alleged a pattern of racism, including retaliation against a Black firefighter who dared to complain.
What happened to the Oakland firefighter was “infuriating,” Allan Brill, president of a crime prevention council in the community, told the Chronicle.
It’s the latest in a wave of high-profile racial profiling incidents in which white people have called the cops to report African Americans as suspicious. “A Black person in the neighborhood, with or without a uniform, being reported to police is a tragic reality that’s been exacerbated in the last few years by the racist policies coming down from our federal government,” Brill added.
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