Monday, March 31st, 2014
Author Shelby Steele has written that programs, preferences and set-asides that target women and minorities cause these groups to be viewed “as almost interminably weak” and place a “pitying stigma” on even the most hard - earned achievement. This belief has been echoed across at least 40 years by Fire Commissioner Gus Beekman (the second black man to hold that position, and someone who rose through the uniformed ranks from Firefighter to Chief of Department)) who counseled that no one should seek special treatment and “that any pressures applied by the Fire Department (in the form of standards and competitive examinations) are designed to propel men forward rather than to hold them back” all the way to current Firefighter Angel Vazquez of Engine 71 (the Merit Matters Battalion 14 Representative) whose sustained outrage, loudly and repeatedly expressed, at the idea that blacks and Hispanics cannot compete with whites on written tests I hear on a regular basis. And FF Vazquez is not alone – countless firefighters of all races and ranks also reject the proposition that some races are inferior to others and can’t achieve success without the benevolent (in truth, malevolent) assistance of lawsuits and quotas. One Hispanic Firefighter even suggested that some sort of identifying mark be added to our uniforms so that NYC residents and fellow firefighters will know that he earned his job.
This Release is being written and distributed on the day a trial was to begin to determine if NYC and the FDNY intentionally discriminated against minorities (although that’s not exactly true as Asians, Native Americans and “other” were determined by Judge Nicholas Garaufis to be “strong” enough to compete on written tests). Only blacks and Hispanics are to receive a stigma, courtesy of the Vulcan Society (but not, it is important to note, the Hispanic Society – they refused to join the Vulcans in the lawsuit). Consider the following facts which detail the expensive and extensive efforts by NYC and the FDNY, stretching back decades, to integrate:
In order to entice people of color and women into joining the FDNY, the city of New York has:
* Complied with a 1973 quota for blacks that resulted in blacks comprising nearly 8% of the firefighting ranks. The incorrect belief expressed in court documents that the percentage of blacks has “held steady at around 3%” since that time to now would not have been posited had the judge accepted my offer of help.
* Spent well over $20 million on recruitment since the 1980s
* Established a Fire Cadet program
* Established an Explorer program
* Extended established filing periods for tests so more minorities could sign up. This has been done repeatedly, most recently for the 2012 entry test.
* Geared tests towards factors that would enable minority and women applicants to compete for and enhance their chances of being considered for positions as firefighters. The 2007 test was designed to get as many applicants as possible to pass.
* Established city residency credits to benefit minority applicants, even applying the credit retroactively to a test given two years earlier.
Established a Pass/Fail Promotion test from EMS titles to Firefighter to increase the number of minority and female firefighters.
* Given a test on which credit was given for wrong answers.
* Established a high school whose mission is to get female and minority students interested in firefighting
* Celebrated with one of the original female firefighters, Linore Simmond, when she was awarded the Isaac Liberman Public Service Award for her contributions to FDNY minority recruitment efforts. This was awarded in 1994 and came with a $3,500 cash award - does Paul Washington continue to claim that recruitment efforts in the past (this was 20 years ago) were pitiful? Does that mean this award earned by an African-American woman was, in truth, not earned?
* Appointed Battalion Chief Phil Parr, so highly regarded that he was a finalist to be Fire Commissioner in 2009 and has recently been mentioned again for this position, to head the Recruitment Unit. Again I ask - does Paul Washington think the appointment of this African-American was a pitiful effort? And, if so, why did Washington turn down the chance to run the Recruitment Unit himself when it was offered to him?
* Worked with the NY Sports Club in establishing a program to help females pass the physical
Established a Fire Service Fellowship at John Jay College
* Made “a Hell of an effort” to bring as many people of color into the FDNY as possible according to Doug White when he, an African-American, was Commissioner of Personnel under Mayor David Dinkins. Mr. White is currently an Assistant Commissioner in the FDNY and still very involved in its minority recruitment effort.
That is quite an impressive list (and it isn’t even complete). New York City sure has a funny way of intentionally discriminating against minorities.
One of the recurring falsehoods implied repeatedly in this debate is that it is the overwhelmingly white FDNY that makes up the tests that “discriminate” against minorities. The truth is that it is the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS – formerly known as the Department of Personnel, where Doug White was once Commissioner) which performs this task – and DCAS is a majority minority agency. Does anyone seriously think that DCAS is conspiring to keep minorities, especially blacks (because the Hispanic numbers in the FDNY are rising naturally as Hispanics decide they want the job, and then prepare) out of the FDNY? Blacks are the most over-represented group in city employment, employment gained by taking tests prepared by – you guessed it – DCAS.
What of those tests? Since they are at the center of this lawsuit, anyone hoping to understand the issues surrounding it or comment intelligently should familiarize themselves with the tests – and this is easily done. Simply go to the NY Times website:
Once there, search for the 1999 and 2002 FDNY entry tests. You will quickly and easily see that these were essentially “open book” tests; all the information necessary to answer each question correctly was provided directly above the question. No, really, it was.
So there will be no trial beginning today. The NYC Administration decided to settle the case (words like “surrender” and “abandoning” were used to describe this decision) and “broad injunctive relief” will be utilized to achieve certain goals (which includes seeking “an increase in the number of blacks at all ranks within the department” according to court documents – a goal which should concern all that quota promotions are on the horizon and also shake up any apathetic incumbents who hope to be promoted in the future).
No trial, but no end to our advocacy, either. If anything, being abandoned and watching too many both within and outside of the FDNY surrendering only energizes us, and we take inspiration from the words of USMC General Lewis “Chesty” Puller: “We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem! Now we can fire in any direction!”
President - Merit Matters516-848-9847 cell