Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Firefighters view

I've been thinking about the recent Supreme Court decision about the firefighters. In case you didn't know, there was a promotional test given to all those qualified within the department. The test had been "pre-screened" if you will to make sure it was not in any way unfair to any of the various ethnic groups within the fire department. When, after the test was given, it was found that predominately white fire fighters had passed and were then eligible for promotion, the city threw out the test. The cities position was that not enough non-white members had passed so they wanted to give another test so that more of the non-white members could pass. The white firefighters sued, and now have eventually won.

What is racism? There are many definitions, depending on who you ask and what group they belong to. I would define it as thus: Any action that gives preferential treatment to any racial group beyond what is given to others.

Based on that definition, throwing out a test because not enough of any group passed is racism.

It's also an insult. It's insulting to those who passed, and possibly even more so to those who didn't.
If I had taken a test, not done well and then found that the test had been thrown aside because my group had not passed, and told that was the reason. I would be insulted. It would be saying to me "your not smart enough to compete with those white/black/red/yellow/brown/polka dot guys. We'll give you guys a special test, one that is easier so you guys can pass." It would be saying to me that I am a lesser person.

Now let's think about that a minute. If that were true that some are not as capable (which in no way it is), do you really want them to be promoted? Take for example an 18 year old new hire on the fire department. He has no experience, has not had as much education (both formal and continuing) as a 10-year veteran, so why not just make him a captain, or hell even a battalion chief? I don't think anyone would argue that he is as capable to be in charge as a 10 or 15 year veteran, so if you had the choice which would you want to be in charge?

If you said you would want the older more experienced person, how is that any different from those who passed the test versus those who didn't? In any promotional situation wouldn't you want the best qualified? How can we ever rationalize promoting a lesser qualified person, given that the test is a fair test?

Let me tell you folks a few things about the fire department. Around the station, unless the captain or lieutenant is as asshole, it's pretty much run by majority or individual choice. But when we go to an emergency scene, things change radically. On scene, the officer is the guy/girl with absolute authority. His orders are to be followed to the letter, or people (possibly his own) could get killed. That authority is based on his rank, but is followed because his men know that he has proven his knowledge and experience. He has proven it through his of her departments promotional testing.

How would it be if a crew arrived at a scene and doubted everything the officer said because they all knew he had been promoted not because he had proven he knew what to do and was able, but because he was of a certain race? Things would not be done, or would be done in such a way as to make them ineffective. For example, a captain orders a hose line to be placed inside to cut off the spread of fire. If the crew on that line doubts that the captain knows the dangers and possibilities of injury in that location, they will not hold that position as long as needed, if they take that position at all.

On the other hand, I know officers of 'other' races that I would follow into hell if he said to. Knowing that he is one hell of a firefighter, it doesn't matter what his skin color is.

And as an officer myself, I can't imagine how it would feel know I had been promoted based on my race because I was not able to pass a test. Honestly, I would have to turn down that promotion under those circumstances. I think any self respecting person would.

It's not racism to expect people to do well to be rewarded. It is not wrong to promote the best qualified candidate without regard for his or her race.
It absolutely is racism to promote based only on their race.

Comments always wanted.........

Mr Fixit


Brigid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brigid said...

That first comment was mine, accidentally deleted the last line.

You either have the skills and make the effort or you don't. There should not be any color or gender ideals put into any job promotion. Period.

I was angered by the original decision. Many of the fireman, who had passed and done well on the test, said they had studied, for hours and hours, making flashcards, staying up to all hours going over and over the material again. They earned their scores Those that went home at night and said "oh, I know this stuff already" and didn't go to the extra effort didn't pass. It's that simple.

Lawyer said...


Very well put. I was encouraged to see justice done in this case, yet disappointed that it was not unanimous. Not everyone gets it.

My race makes me a minority, yet my race does not disable me. Fairness dictates that I be judged with the same measure as everyone else. It is my responsibility to study, train, and work up to the required standard. Asking for or accepting a dumbed down standard is unacceptable.

TOTWTYTR said...

The problem is that to liberals a test in which some people do more poorly than others is biased if the people who do poorly are of a particular race of ethnic group. They will attack the test and the test writers, not realizing that the problem goes far deeper into society than testing bias.

Examining those issues would cause them to realize that many of their cherished beliefs are the BS that the rest of us have always known they are.