"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Slay Panders St.Louis Blacks…To Death?

August 1st, 2007 by mopns · No Comments

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has a plan to address what he calls a racial rift in the city’s fire department. The mayor is calling for mandatory training in diversity and race relations for all city firefighters.Mayor Slay wrote in his blog July 28 that over the past decade, race relations within the city’s fire department “have sometimes become heated”- largely because of one issue.”The latest promotional exams basically fuel the disputes that are going on within the department,” he said.Members of the Firefighters Union, Local 73, are upset Fire Chief Sherman George has decided not to promote firefighters even though a judge ruled promotional tests are valid. However, F.I.R.E., the group that represents African-American firefighters, argue the tests are unfair, and that blacks are under-represented at the leadership level.

The mayor writes in his blog that “it’s time for things to change” and for both groups – Local 73 and F.I.R.E. – to come to the table.

“Chief George and I can try to put the system together, put the structure together, call them together,” Slay said. “But in the end it’s going to be up to them.”

The two groups call the plan a good start.

“If it helps to solve anything, I’m all for it. Right now we’re willing to do whatever it takes to solve it,” Christopher Molitor, president of Local 73, said.

But the groups also expressed some skepticism about the mayor’s proposal. Captain Addington Stewart, president of F.I.R.E., argued the racial rift will exist as long as disputes over promotions hang in the balance.

“I think the issues that we’re talking about, in reference to what’s leading up to him wanting to have diversity, is still having testing, and working out a proposal on how testing should be conducted.”

As a black person I have always wondered why other black people are afraid of test taking and being held to the same standards as their white counterparts. Skills tests are needed and should be non-negotiable in an area where human lives are at stake…like at the fire department.

Slay’s call for mandatory training for diversity and race relations only takes the firefighters’ minds off what their jobs are: saving lives and putting out fires. The job of fighting fires shouldn’t have anything to do with race, but now it does, because some black firefighters can’t measure up – and now they see racism (as most black only unions do) lurking in the corners.

I’m sure race relations and sensitivity training won’t be an issue to the black people trapped in a burning building. However, some black people who have read about this debacle may be hoping to see a white firefighter coming to their rescue…at least then they can almost be sure that merit was involved and not sub standards.

Related:

STL Post Dispatch: “Slay orders end on fire department promotions”

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Tags: Mayor Frances Slay · St. Louis

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