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Lawrence Baylor
Lawrence Baylor
Correspondent for Cinch News. Lawrence thought about attending the University of Chicago to earn a B.A. in Journalism and a PhD in African-American Studies. He is the critically acclaimed author of "Weapons to Win the War for Social Justice". He is currently writing a new book, "Bloodletting: How Peaceful Protests Improve Race Relations". His pronouns are they/them. Lawrence is 1/16 African-American thanks to his great-great-grandmother who probably escaped slavery in 1859.

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Not Just Cops – We Need to Stop Licking Firefighters’ Boots Too

The image of the firefighter conjures ideals of strong, well-trained rescuers – the Heroes of September 11, the ones who put themselves in danger to save the lives of others. Firefighters, after all, work in one of the most trusted professions in the United States. No surprises there – firefighting involves putting oneself at great personal risk every day on the job. It is one of the few professions that can claim a clean record in the history books.

…Or can it?

Let’s peek behind the curtain and see how many red flags we can find.

  1. Firefighters are overwhelmingly male – Check.
  2. Firefighters are majority white – Check.
  3. Male Firefighters earn more than Female Firefighters – Check.
  4. The word “Fireman” is male-biased – Check.
  5. Only 3% of all firefighters are LGBT – Check.

Let’s go through all these red flags one-by-one.

1. Firefighters are overwhelmingly male

This needs to change. It is a well-known fact that male-only clubs invariably develop an internal culture of toxic masculinity. Without Diversity and Inclusion efforts, these “boys clubs” can easily turn into brainwashing facilities for fascism.

2. Firefighters are majority white

While the firefighting profession has gradually become more racially diverse over the past several decades, the fact that 69% of firefighters are still white should be setting off alarm bells. Prompt intervention by local, state, and the federal government is needed to resolve this crisis before this problem regresses into de facto segregation. Whiteness and white supremacy are well-known chronic problems in the United States that need to be cured, and the only cure that has proven workable by history is heavy-handed government intervention.

3. The gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is a well-known problem throughout all vocations in the United States. Female firefighters earn only 92 cents for every dollar that male firefighters earn. Where is the fairness here? Is the underemployment of Female firefighters not enough? Paying Female firefighters less who take on just as much risk as males just adds insult to injury.

4. The problematic word: “fireman”

Our language unfortunately carries a sexist history with it – a profession dominated by men for decades fostered the term “fireman”, a microaggressive term designed to assert that women cannot be firefighters, or that men make better firefighters – which are both wrong. Female firefighters are just as strong and capable as male firefighters.

5. LGBTQ+ under-representation

The data suggests that only 3% of all firefighters are LGBTQ+. This is a serious problem. It is the opinion of this author that a federal mandate for all fire departments nationwide to have a “Queer Counselor” employed by every department who has the power to veto hiring and firing decisions by the department in order to ensure the LGBTQ+ representation of the department matches or exceeds the national average. Fire departments should also be required to conduct group training sessions on LGBTQ+ cultural practices led by this counselor, with particular emphasis on sexuality techniques explained with video instruction and hands-on training.

Firefighting is not the squeaky clean profession we always believed it was. It is a field in desperate need of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Equity in particular needs to come in the form of what kinds of fires that firefighters prioritize fighting against. White neighborhoods have the fewest fires, yet they get the most attention from fire departments. That’s wrong. One way we could fix this is if fire departments had minimum quotas on BIPOC or minority-owned homes to fight fires in before white homes receive firefighting service.

Pictured: Firefighters who support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Nothing is perfect – everything and everyone can always be better. But in order to be better, we need to stop licking the boots of our oppressors. We need to start fighting back. Who watches the Watchmen? Who fights the firefighters?

If not us, then who?


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