Several fire departments in the nation have become breeding grounds for racial discrimination, African-American firefighters have said in recent months—and they are fighting back with lawsuits.
A recent case involved a Black firefighter who sued the city of Los Angeles Monday (Aug. 6), saying that he was subjected to rampant incidents of racism, including having feces smeared on his equipment. Emanuel Brown, 40, a 10-year fire department employee who was stationed in South Los Angeles, was subjected to severe mistreatment that began on Easter Sunday last year, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Brown reported the incidents at his workplace to colleagues. He also told a captain outside of his station, prompting an internal complaint. He said that he would inform the LA Times about the racial harassment, to no avail.
Co-workers sought retaliation against Brown, Matthew McNicholas, Brown’s attorney, said. Brown exposed the hostile culture and alleged history of racist hazing at the department via his recent lawsuit.
Elsewhere, several firefighters and a medical technician have gone to bat against the New York City Fire Department over discrimination. A firefighter, who is white, shouted a racial slur at an African-American FDNY EMT in Brooklyn on July 29, telling her to “just do your job you Black b***h.” The EMT filed a complaint, according to the New York Daily News.
Other firefighters have alleged racism at FDNY, including local NYC hero Roben Duge who said in a lawsuit last month that he was demoted because of his skin color. Duge, 32, made headlines after saving a grandmother and children from a house fire in Queens, New York in March, the New York Post reported.
John Butler, an incoming Black fire chief in Fairfax County in Virginia, faced online discrimination before even starting his position, The Washington Post reported last week. The county launched an investigation into the hateful comments, which could have originated from inside the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.
It’s clear that several Black firefighters feel there are no safe spaces for them in firehouses nationwide. The departments must find a way to more effectively combat discrimination.