NEW YORK CITY--A black FDNY official said minority members of the nation’s largest fire department are subjected to harassment, detailing several incidents of racism as he testified at a federal discrimination trial in Brooklyn federal court today.
Fire Capt. Paul Washington said one such episode occurred in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, when a placard announcing a memorial service for black firefighters killed in the World Trade Center was defaced with racist remarks.
Scrawled on the flyer, posted on a bulletin board in the Ladder 131 firehouse in Brooklyn, were the names of black entertainment figures or pop-culture characters like "The Jackson 5," "Tupac," "Busta Rhymes," "Gary Coleman," "P Diddy," "Fat Albert" and "Buckwheat.""This was only a few months after September 11th," Washington told a federal judge.
The fire captain also testified about other episodes of racial insensitivity, saying he’d overheard white firefighters using the "N-word" inside Engine 280 in Brooklyn as a derogatory term to describe a company member assigned to daily "grunt work" or menial chores for the day.
Washington, a 23-year department veteran, also recounted other incidents such as one where a white firefighter donned a Ku Klux Klan hood in the presence of a black firefighter.
The white firefighter reportedly drew a minor reprimand in 2006.
After finding a noose draped over his fire gear, another black firefighter filed suit against the city.
Washington also spoke about the discovery of a Confederate flag, which was displayed inside a city firehouse.
His testimony is part of the special bench trial before Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who is gauging ways to attract more minority firefighters to the FDNY.
The department is only 3 percent black, while blacks represent nearly 26 percent of New York City’s population.