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Friday, November 10, 2006

Black L.A. firefighter served dog food gets $2.7 million

This is so messed up. I was going to just link to this but no, I'll just post it and make sure this is seen. This seems like a practical joke, even if it was racially motivated. Have a look, this from a Sun-Times article...

In his lawsuit, firefighter Tennie Pierce, 51, said after he took a bite of the meal two years ago, he noticed other firefighters laughing. He demanded to know what was in the food after a second bite but nobody answered.

Pierce said he suffered retaliation for reporting the incident and verbal slurs, insults and derogatory remarks, including taunting by firefighters ''barking like dogs [and] asking him how dog food tasted,'' the lawsuit said.

David Wellman, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz hired by Pierce's attorney, said the association of a black man and dog food ''resonates with the deep historical roots of slavery and the corresponding dehumanization.''

''It's not just silly stuff. It's racially motivated,'' he said.

As part of the settlement, the two captains involved were given one month off without pay, and a firefighter was ordered off work for three days without pay.

''I truly hope that my case will make a difference for African-Americans in the Los Angeles Fire Department,'' Pierce said in a statement.

2 comments:

mesa custom furnishings said...

here's a copy of a letter i sent to another enlightened blogger:


Jennifer,

Just read your Tennie Pierce posting. Such insight for someone only twenty!

Now for some “context” on the settlement not covered in TV blurbs or on KFI. We’ll start with the press release from Mr. Pierce’s lawyers. You were probably too busy scanning Alpo photos onto your blog to actually do some “reporting,” so here goes:

It turns out a few months prior to the dog-food incident, one of the “participants” directed some particularly nasty language towards another black firefighter. Use your imagination here. As a Latina, Jennifer, I’m sure you’ve had a few racist words thrown your way. Make you feel all gooey inside? Here’s where the whole “context” thing starts to take shape. Maybe that firefighter with the big vocabulary didn’t like black folks to start with.

So one day Tennie Pierce comes in from a long shift, he sits down to eat, and suddenly all his co-workers are laughing at him. Oh, and at the time, Pierce just happens to be the only black working at the station.

Jump back to 1994.

Ring a bell, Jennifer? Granted, you were eight at the time and there were Beanie Babies to consider, but that was the year the LA City Council released an audit citing – among other things - racism and sexism running rampant on the LAFD. Pretty much you name the “ism” and the Department had it covered.

There was outrage, a call for reform, promises of swift and thorough changes by the Department. And then something like eleven years passed.

This past January yet another audit report was released on the LAFD. In it, City Controller Laura Chick basically said nothing had changed and all those pesky little “isms” still remained. Boring stuff, really, unless of course you’re a fireman. Also included in the report was the statistic that 87% of African-American respondents had either “experienced or had direct knowledge of racial discrimination on the job.” Now sure, Jennifer, that number sounds high. But the other way to look at it, I suppose, is that 13% of blacks didn’t have an issue, and we’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Point three: the LAFD found that the participants and supervisors engaged in a “collective attempt” to cover-up the dog-food incident. Kind of a biggie, that one, so I’ll say it once more with feeling: the LA Fire Department came to that conclusion, Jennifer, not the LA City Council. Notice the distinction? City Council, elected by the taxpayers, merely acted on the facts that were presented to them.

Lastly, there’s the notion of the incident’s long-term effects on Mr. Pierce - and its aftermath - and the pattern of destructive behavior within the LAFD that fostered them.

Dennis Zine, the Council’s lone dissenter, states that there is no visible damage to Tennie Pierce, no physical harm we can see. I’ll admit a lost limb or lazy eye is much easier to quantify in terms of dollars and cents than, say, psychological damage. But does Zine have a point here? He did serve thirty-plus years on the LAPD, an institution long-noted for its sensitivity and valor. There are hours of video footage to prove it.

Instead, let’s consult someone in the medical field. I know, I know, that darn “context” word again.

Sure, we could cite the UCSC professor’s testimony on the “prank’s” long-term psychological harm. We could delve into the history of racism, bring up slavery, and how really really inconvenient the idea of integration was – and still is – to some people in this country.

Seriously, though. Yaaaaawn! Why not ask you, Jennifer? You’re the one studying Developmental Psychology. Surely you’ve heard of PTSD. Wait, you’re not a Tom Cruise fan, are you? Anyway, experts like you apply it to all sorts of charming situations: women mistaken for punching bags, ungrateful war vets, whiners toiling under touchy-feely bosses.

And so assuming a person is blessed enough to fit into one of these or maybe a few hundred other categories, how exactly would that toxicity manifest itself? Internally, I mean. Forget the easy-out of a limp or stuttering or a wheelchair.

Would it keep you up at night? When you do sleep, would it give you nightmares? Make you short with people? Less trusting? Someone who grew up here in LA and dreamed of becoming a firefighter so he could actually make a difference in the world and suddenly now that same man – all six-foot-five of him, the former football star – he hates to leave the house?

Imagine for a moment co-workers barking at you. Over and over again, day after day. To your face, behind you back, in front of supervisors, even. Supervisors that play along with the “joke” and prefer to sweep the whole thing under the rug. It’s all there in the testimony, Jennifer.

This is all fun and games, right? Get a sense of humor. So you find the occasional can of dog-food in the back of your truck. So what if people bring the incident up in front of your twelve-year-old daughter and she wonders why they call you “Dog-food Boy.” Can’t you take a joke? You’re a firefighter, you’re a hero. Relax. Trust these guys, they’re your brothers.

It’s not like your life is in their hands.

John McDonald
john@mesafurnishings.com

Anonymous said...

Mr. McDonald's commentary would make a bigger impact if he weren't such a jerk. As it is, he makes me feel suspicious of the person he's defending. I also feel sympathy for the little girl he's picking on, through the internet.

Is there some way to serve Mr. McDonald some dog food?

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