Daily Express uses firefighters to stir up racism and sexism
Jess McCabe // 13 February 2008
Explain to me this: how does a national newspaper make the leap from one fire service setting aside a few days to recruit women and ethnic minorities, to “white men banned” from joining?
Well, perhaps if you write to the Daily Express, they will be able to give some other explanation for this story, headlined “White men are banned”, but it seems like an obvious attempt to stir up racism and sexism in its readers* to me.
The bosses held five open days to attract new recruits – with four strictly limited to either women, ethnic minorities or both. They insisted they had acted lawfully. But the move sparked outrage among MPs, serving firefighters and racial equality groups.
No, this isn’t a case of positive discrimination. No, white men are not being turned away from fire stations in droves. There were a couple of recruitment days designed by one fire service to make women and ethnic minority appliants feel more comfortable by assuring them they wouldn’t be massively outnumbered by white men. This prompted “outrage”? In all seriousness?
But Tory MP Philip Davies, who is a campaigner against political correctness, said the move by Avon Fire Service was “absolutely disgusting”. “This sort of thing just makes people’s blood boil and does more damage than good to race relations,” he said. “How would people react if women and black people were banned from an open day?”
The MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire added: “I don’t care whether the fire service is only made up of ethnic minority women – as long as they are the best people at fighting fires.”
“If the Chief Fire Officer is so concerned, he should give up his job to an ethnic minority woman instead of depriving other white men of a job.”
Let’s just unpick this a bit – first we have the notion that attempting to attract ethnic minorities and women into the fire service “makes people’s blood boil”. Only if you’re a racist misogynist, Mr Davies. This is swiftly followed by an assertion that he doesn’t care if the “fire service is only made up of ethnic minority women” – which is supposed to assure us that this MP is not actually racist or misogynist, but in fact does the opposite. Because he clearly sees it as acceptable to exaggerate for rhetorical effect by imagining a fire service staffed exclusively by ethnic minority women. In a reality where the service is to all intents and purposes staffed exclusively by white men, and most people probably equate fire fighters with white men, this steers dangerously close to ridiculing the very concept of ethnic minority women as fire fighters.
But we can also deduce from this that Davies doesn’t care that the profession is currently shutting out anyone – after all, as he says himself: what does it matter, as long as the job gets done?
And then we get to the absolute pinnacle of his statement, which I’m going to repeat in all its glory: “If the Chief Fire Officer is so concerned, he should give up his job to an ethnic minority woman instead of depriving other white men of a job.”
Yep, that’s right folks!
We’ve made a massive leap from a recruitment day to attract more diverse applicants, to “depriving other white men of a job”. Those jobs are, after all, set aside by society in perpetuity for white men, so giving them to anyone else is depriving a white man of a job.
Lasting six hours, two sessions were limited to women and ethnic minorities, one to ethnic minorities only and one to women only. Only one was open to all.
Avon Fire Service said they were trying to target minorities because up to 95 per cent of their 868 firefighters are white men.
Just to switch that last statistic around, only around 44 firefighters in this service are white or ethnic minority women, or ethnic minority men. Fourty four, out of 868. And yet the outrage that “only one” of three sessions were open to white men? The fire service is not operating some kind of positive discrimination quota system, remember. They are holding recruitment days.
Luckily for those 44 people, and anyone else other than white men who are thinking of becoming fire fighters, this sentiment does not seem to be shared by the fire service itself. Despite the Express’ assertion that the idea sparked outrage in “serving firefighters”, the story manages to quote only a single, unnamed fire fighter as objecting to this policy.
* Apparently successfully – don’t read the comments on this story unless you feel like your blood pressure is in need of a bit of excitement. For example:
As I watch my blond, curly haired, toddler grandson I feel sad that his genes, and mine, will dissapear but it is inevitable unless we take a stand and demand England for our own.