I actually cannot believe that I am currently writing this article. When I first came across a story about a firefighter being fired for bringing a watermelon to the station, my first reaction was that it was a joke. I quickly came to the realization that it was real, and we live in truly pathetic times.
Probationary firefighter Robert Pattison decided to pick up a healthy treat for his fellow firefighters as he went to introduce himself at Engine 55 in Detroit.
According to Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty, it’s a tradition for new firefighters to bring a gift when they come to introduce themselves. He said, “It’s not mandatory, it’s voluntary. You come in bearing gifts. The usual gift is doughnuts, but you are allowed to bring whatever you want to bring in.”
So Pattison picked up a large water melon, donned it with a pink ribbon, and went to meet his new co-workers. Unto his dismay, he was immediately seen as racist since about 90 percent of the firefighters at the station are African-American. They were allegedly offended by his choice of gift.
Fox 2 Detroit reports:
“When you get your first detail at a firehouse you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into,” says Patrick Trout. “So you would have to say it was probably a bad call.”
FOX 2: “Is it racially insensitive to bring a watermelon into a fire house?”
“To some people,” McCarty says.
FOX 2 spoke to Pattison by phone, who claims it was not a joke – and he did not mean to offend his fellow firefighters. But he clearly did. Fire Commissioner Eric Jones says the Fenton native was officially discharged.
In a statement Jones says: “There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department. On Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Engine 55, a trial firefighter (probationary employee) engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department.
“After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee.”
In a world where racial tensions run high, some tell me the trial firefighter should have known better. Trout doesn’t know if he meant anything by it – but feels it was a bad choice.
The whole situation is absolutely ridiculous. Unless there were some type of derogatory terms used or racial slurs made, then how the heck can a piece of fruit be grounds for a man to lose his job over claims of racism?
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com