Testimony during a special bench trial to determine methods to improve minority recruiting at the FDNY has detailed numerous instances of racism, one occurring a short time after the events of September 11. Captain Paul Washington testified yesterday that several months after the attacks, a bulletin for a memorial service for fallen black firefighters was posted at the Ladder 131 station in Red Hook. The flyer was defaced with the words "What about the white guys?" and the names of black celebrities such as "Gary Coleman, Fat Albert, Tupac Shakur," and "Buckwheat," the Daily News reports.
Washington, a 23-year-veteran and former president of the Vulcan Society, said the man responsible stepped forward but was disciplined "in an unofficial manner." During the mid-'90s, Washington testified that firefighters in an all-white firehouse would "use the N-word to describe whoever was assigned to do that day's menial tasks." According to the Post, he also heard of an incident in which a white firefighter put on a Ku Klux Klan hood while with a black colleague, and noted that a Confederate flag was on prominent display in one firehouse.
Complaining of the racist behavior to superiors would make a firefighter "effectively ostracized," according to Washington. "You're going to be shunned. Things like this can be very hurtful to your career." While blacks make up 26% of the city's population, only 3% of firefighters are black. Earlier this year a black FDNY electrician found a noose in his locker after filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Signs of institutional racism have continued to plague the FDNY despite rulings against the department's biased entry exams.