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Racism, Sexism Still Alive and Operating in SB City Fire Dept. with Some Employees

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Last week, The Black Voice News headline article read: “Fire Cadet Program Under Fire, Flyer Called Racist” as a flyer was hung by someone inside the SB Fire Department which brought back memories of when I worked at Edison in the sixties. If you have not seen the flyer, it can best be described as a cartoonish depiction of a Black man with braided hair, an older overweight White man standing in front of a fire truck and an overweight White female senior citizen dressed in a yellow raincoat with unflattering pictures of the deputy commander of the fire department, Councilmembers Rikke Van Johnson and Virginia Marquez, and SB City Manager, Charles McNeely citing professionalism in action on it.

The city council voted unanimously with the support of the fire department leaders for a cadet program to bring diversity to the department and encourage hiring local residents. Currently we have only 8 of the 179 fire department employees living in the city for which they earn between $87,523 and $160,183 annually when you toss in overtime and benefits. Benefits which translates into between $12 million to $27 million of our taxpayers money leaving the city each year taken out by our so-called professional firefighters.

Now I know that not every person in the fire department is responsible for putting up the poster, so I am not blaming everyone who works there but likewise they can not blame all of us with the same brush of uncaring irresponsible citizens as they have done in the past. If we are good enough to pay your salary then we are good enough for you to live amongst us. If the police use the excuse they fear for their lives because of people they might arrest, what is a firefighters reason? If the city is good enough to work in, it must be treated the same when it comes to residence.

To borrow a quote from a citizen of Greece recently; “it is like a man milking a cow but refusing to feed her. Eventually there is no more milk to give”. The firefighters have taken all of our money from the community and refuse to help feed the tax base and the Blacks and Hispanics are at the point of not feeding the city anymore.

The reason it brought back memories of Edison is, my supervisor, David Olson (a White male), degraded a picture of us and pinned it to the bulletin board. Edison’s top management asked me to become a scoutmaster and I in return recruited Al Ysaguire, Frank Palomino, Rubin Amador, Don Griggs and Pete Baeza all minority employees of Edison to help me put on a camporee for boys in the community. The picture had us standing with some boys sitting in front of us and I was dressed in my scout uniform. Rubin worked outside on a line crew with little contact with the public so he sported one of those handlebar mustaches. David Olson took the liberty of drawing a circle around Rubin and me and wrote Poncho Villa and his Raiders with other unflattering comments. Needless to say we objected and complained and Olson was relieved of his supervisory duties and was transferred out of the area.

There must be a racist and sexism bug in the air because several months ago we had a lady out of the Orange County Republican Central Committee post a picture of President Barack Obama as a watermelon eating man and others posting unflattering pictures of him as a monkey ready to shoot on sight. Last week, Mark Halprin was on MSNBC Morning Joe program and said “I thought he (President Obama) was a d—k yesterday,” referring to the president’s press conference. On the same network Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a slut and David Schuster said Hillary Clinton was “pimping her daughter, Chelsea” during the 2008 presidential campaign. I bring these examples up because some men are threatened by others seeking our rights in the job market that have been denied in the past because of our race and gender.

This flyer and expression by Whites is nothing new in America’s war of belittling us as a people or treating us less as than human. It is their way of informing society; do not take them seriously because they are flakes and clowns. The message in the picture hung by some fire department employee(s) is; this is the kind of unprofessional service you will get from Blacks, Hispanics and women. Whoever did it is a throwback to the days of no Blacks or Hispanics as receptionists or secretaries in the public eye or front office and women could not be firefighters. They did not want us as meter readers, phone repairmen, highway patrol officers or any service job that places “those unprofessional unsavory persons” in contact with the White public.

When you look at the Fire Department workforce it is the last department where racism and sexism has a stronghold. Currently there are 179 employees in the fire department with only 10 Blacks, 31 Hispanics, 12 women and 1 Asian; in a city that has 32,374 Blacks; 113,669 Hispanics; 98,913 women and 7,614 Asians according to our U.S. Census Department. Likewise, there are just 49,645 White males including boys in the city. One of my questions is why should these citizens of the city keep on feeding the cow while White men take and drink all the milk in another community?

I am requesting the city council direct the city attorney to investigate the flyer incident and bring his findings back to the council. I am also suggesting that any Black, Hispanic or woman that has applied for employment with this department contact the NAACP. I am also suggesting that the NAACP file complaints with various state and federal agencies that have responsibilities for investigating discrimination or compliance revenues over how federal dollars are spent in the city.

I am requesting information under the freedom of information act, on specific personnel functions such as, recruitment plans & processes, firefighter position qualifications, the number of applicants applied for employment over the past ten years, the applicants rejected, applications (no names) of those hired, how promotions are awarded, who has been promoted over the past ten years and who is being trained currently to replace the chief after he retires. According to the last report the chief made to the council, he is currently doing succession planning for his position. I want to know how and who were selected for this training?

We will not be mocked or made fun of any more by those we pay.

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+2 # Guest 2011-07-09 16:57
Hey Hardy, there are REQIREMENTS to getting hired as a firefighter. Simply get educated at the local community college get the reqired classes apply and test (pass the test). ALL the members of the San Bernardino City Fire Department GOT all the required classes, applied, tested and ultimately got hired. ANYBODY can take the classes, regardless of COLOR. The person calling 911 because they are having a life threatening EMERGENCY doesn't care what color or gender the firefighter is, JUST that THEY are the BEST trained individual the Fire Department can hire regardless of color/gender!!!!!!!!

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