This week New York’s Fire Department hit headlines with a civil rights issue that has everyone heated! The FDNY decided to administer a new entrance exam in an effort to hire new firefighters for the first time in 5 years. However, some of the existing New York firefighters feel that the FDNY are pandering to minorities by lowering the standards of the entrance exam to accommodate diversity. The FDNY’s lack of racial diversity has been a subject of ridicule for the past several years. There is no doubt that the diversity in the FDNY is surprisingly pitiful, 91% white, and only 3% black, shocking I know! But the department is walking a fine line between promoting equal employment opportunity and tilting the scales to help minorities. Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that “retroactive seniority and priority hiring of 293 minorities” would begin “immediately”. This decision caused an uproar resulting in 200 firefighters protesting outside of the courthouse in Brooklyn, NY.
One (white) firefighter stated to the court, “Seniority was earned in the dead of night when these benefactors were home sleeping”. The FDNY’s lack of racial diversity has been a subject of ridicule for the past several years. I agree that the world’s most diverse city should have more diversity in it’s fire department. However, it feels like the FDNY is overcompensating, especially when you consider that 46% of the newly recruited test takers were “people of color”. This drastic and sudden increase in minority test takers does not seem like a natural integration of minorities.
If the old entrance exam was truly racially biased then I am happy the New York Fire Department brought attention to the issue and took action to correct their mistake. I find it hard to believe though, that an entrance exam to become a firefighter could really be that racially biased. What questions relevant to firefighting could possibly be asked on this exam that would give one race an advantage over another? I just hope the FDNY didn’t actually lower the standards of the test, like so many existing firefighters have claimed. Promoting equal opportunity is a necessity, but lowering standards to accommodate diversity will put civilians as well as under-qualified firefighters in danger. Not to mention that it contradicts the concept of equal employment opportunity.