My friend Eric is training (hard) to become a firefighter. He’s written a thoughtful post about Richmond’s peculiar affirmative action in the firefighting department:
Unfortunately, in their attempt to correct past issues, the local City of Richmond has been a blatant example of sexist/racist discrimination. They recently announced that they would only hire white males for their fire department if they could not fill all of their vacancies with women or minorities. At they most recent firefighting test that I was at, I did not see one candidate that wasn’t a white male. Not one. Of the six hundred or so candidates that routinely apply to local departments, I would venture to guess that there are less than 50 that aren’t white males. In response to this, Richmond stated that they would be willing to pay for the training of non-white male candidates if need be.
This seems pretty absurd (and potentially unsafe) to me. You’re not going to manufacture demand where none exists. You’ve got to do it through education, teaching girls and new Canadians that they can, if they want, become firefighters. Of course then there’s the vexing problem of the difficulty of the standardized tests for women, but that’s a different issue.
Here’s an article discussing Richmond’s announcement, which indicates that “there are only two women and fewer than 10 visible minorities among the 206 firefighters in the Vancouver suburban community.”
Of course, some of this is politics, in response to allegations of sexual harassment by former female firefighters. Eric finishes well:
Fire doesn’t care if you are black or white or how many testicles you have. When something goes wrong at a fire, being strong and fit, intelligent and skilled are all that matter. Its somehow a little bit ironic that my first personal exposure to institutionalized racism comes from the city of Richmond.