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Iniquities are Passed on to the Third and Fourth Generation

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In the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church every Sunday the minister leads the congregation in the Decalogue, a recital of the Ten Commandments in song. The part that comes to mind today is, "for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me."

This line comes to mind because of a letter written by San Bernardino Fire Chief Larry Pitzer. He was responding to James Tate’s outrage at the department’s hiring practices because they did not hire African Americans over a period of ten years. Iniquity is defined by Webster’s as great wickedness or injustice. Not hiring Blacks for a ten year period is a gross injustice.

The issue of the San Bernardino Fire Department not hiring an African American for the past ten years is appalling and disgusting for a city with eighteen percent of its population Black. It has touched off much discussion within the community as to how to remedy this unexplainable discrimination against a people who pay taxes and have paid taxes for over 100 years in San Bernardino. James Tate is to be commended for bringing this discriminatory employment practice to the public’s attention.

The few Black employees in the department are angry because there will be no one to replace them when they retire. They have seen the unfavorable actions taken against Black applicants in the past without corrective action taken by those in charge. They have witnessed "word of mouth recruitment" by insiders who get the correct information for successful placement on the next hire list.

They have seen how candidates are pre-selected for open positions. They have been so hurt by this discriminatory action that they refuse to ride on floats provided by the department during Black History Month activities.

The fire chief is angry because he took over the job as fire chief six years ago and does not feel he is responsible for four out of the ten years. In a letter to the Black Voice News the fire chief states: "I am sure you are aware that the State Constitution through the passage of Proposition 209 renders recruitment, or any program that targets a specific ethnic group as illegal."

The question I have for the chief and the city as a whole is how does the White community find out about openings within the department if some one does not inform them? Is it the responsibility of the employees within the department to inform their friends. If you have no Blacks on your staff how will the Black community know. Is it the responsibility of the Human Resource Department? Is it the responsibility of the hiring supervisor? Is it the responsibility of the mayor? Is it the responsibility of the City Council? The chief said in the same letter that just prior to taking the job the city hired 21 White firefighters and laid them off in order to create a new hire list of those laid off.

This in reality guaranteed a 100% hire of Whites without ever having to even consider an African American. This adds up to 42 straight hires of Whites without even considering a person of color. State Constitution or not, this blatant discrimination will not be tolerated by the Black community.

According to Wallace Green, City of San Bernardino Affirmative Action Officer, Mayor Judith Valles is angry that such a disgrace went unnoticed under her watch and she was not made aware of this problem. The city council members are angry because they spoke out for equal treatment in the work place but have not been kept abreast of this unequal access for African American citizens of San Bernardino.

The Black community is angry because they have been paying taxes in this city for over a hundred years and should not be denied employment from their hard earned money. First we had to fight to get service now we must fight to get jobs from a city of which we are shareholders.

To the chief and mayor and common council who might feel they have no responsibility for this dismal hiring record, I say the iniquities of the parents are sometimes passed on to the third and fourth generation that follow. In other words just because your predecessors did not hire any Blacks does not relieve you of the responsibility for equal treatment then and now. When you took the job you inherited the responsibility and obligation to do that which is right and just for the citizens you swore to represent.

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