With the Fire Department of New York once again under fire for its lack of minority firefighters-the department is 92 percent white, 4.7 percent Hispanic and 3 percent black-the agency is facing a lawsuit filed by the Vulcan Society, a group of black firefighters. Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta assured everyone that the department’s recruitment efforts include tactics such as targeting black churches to promote careers in firefighting, but noted that it remains difficult to interest blacks in the job.
Hearing the civil-rights watchers say “Not good enough” and “Not aggressive enough,” as Vulcan Society president Paul Washington did, one feels as if she’s just stepped through the looking glass. After all, how much have we heard over the years about the insidiousness of aggressive recruitment in poor black neighborhoods for potentially deadly work on the battlefield? One need only recall Michael Moore’s recent Fahrenheit 9/11, which skewered the military for this very “ploy.”
It all conjures up the messy memories of Vietnam, where we were told that blacks were drafted and died in disproportionate numbers-only to find out later that white guilt was overwrought, since blacks represented 13.5 percent of the American population and accounted for about 12 percent of Vietnam deaths.
Sure enough, now the civil-rights champions are complaining that we’re not sending enough blacks into burning buildings and are telling the FDNY to take a page from the military, where blacks are “well-represented,” as yesterday’s racism is called for the sake of today’s race-baiting. I shudder to think what will happen if and when the FDNY meets the equality-mongers’ demands and we start seeing injured or dead black firefighters in proportion to their population numbers.
If it’s any clue, recall a Marine staff sergeant named Kendall Waters-Bey, who died in a helicopter crash on the second day of the Iraq war. His family was carted out on cue, and the grieving father held up a photo of his son, saying, “I want President Bush to get a good look at this, [a] really good look here. This is the only son I had.”
It’s also reminiscent of Marine reservist Stephen Funk, who, after all the gay-rights pressure for an inclusive military, went AWOL in 2003 when his battalion was mobilized for Iraq. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except that Mr. Funk said that, as a gay man, he found the military “surprisingly violent”-an aspect of the armed forces that “they don’t really advertise.” He labeled himself a conscientious objector.
The only guilt that we’re being spared is from the feminists, who so far are keeping a lid on the deadly reality of their clamoring to get more women into the armed forces. (It’s taken until a recent article in NewsMax Magazine, “GI Jane at War: Dying in Record Numbers,” to reveal it.)
Certainly one isn’t advocating protectionist policies toward blacks, gays and women regarding dangerous and heroic work. One merely asks that the equality-mongers stop trying to have it both ways, and stop manipulating guilt out of a fair-minded and decent society.
In fairness, it must be noted that the FDNY does have a troubled racial history, and its 1950’s image is said to remain in the minds of many would-be black applicants. The recent firehouse “gag” of laying a noose on a black firefighter’s gear pack doesn’t help matters any, yet this insult-which is being investigated-points to the difference between today’s FDNY and the FDNY of yore.
It used to be that the department exhibited an institutional racism that permeated its entire culture, including hiring policy. But these days, the racism is, by and large, individual-of the sort that some whites and Jews encounter in certain black-dominated government jobs. In other words, the ball is in the applicant’s court, and the only relevant question a would-be minority firefighter should ask is: Do I feel like spending most of the day sitting around and chewing the fat with a bunch of cliquey white guys?
Recruitment is the wrong issue to criticize, except perhaps to suggest that the department do something to change the stale perception which blacks have of it. And on this front, the Vulcan Society should do its part by getting out the word.
Otherwise, we’re back to the non-offense that the television program Who Wants to be a Millionaire was accused of several years ago. The show was criticized for not having “diverse” contestants-or not enough of them in the eyes of critics.
The show’s then host, Regis Philbin, answered those concerns by pointing out that all are welcome to apply, but the producers have no control over who applies and who doesn’t.
In the city’s firehouses, firefighters likewise point out that anybody can take the civil-service test.
But you can’t force people to do so.