White firefighter fired for bringing watermelon as gift; defende - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

White firefighter fired for bringing watermelon as gift; defended by black colleagues

A firefighter trainee brought a watermelon as a gift to his new colleagues at a fire station that is 90 percent black. (Source: Pixabay) A firefighter trainee brought a watermelon as a gift to his new colleagues at a fire station that is 90 percent black. (Source: Pixabay)

DETROIT (RNN) – A probationary firefighter took part in a tradition by bringing a gift to his fellow firefighters at Engine 55 at Joy and Smithfield.

Most guys bring doughnuts, WJBK reported, but Robert Pattison, 41, brought a watermelon topped with a pink bow, which got him fired.

Almost all the people who work at the station are black, and some of the African-American firefighters found the gift offensive, Fox 2 reported.

Watermelons have long been a racist symbol in America, taking back to the era of slavery.

WJBK talked to Pattinson on the phone, and he told the reporter it wasn’t a joke, and he didn’t intend to offend his colleagues.

But he definitely did offend some of them.

The fire commissioner issued an official statement saying that Pattison had been fired.

“There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department,” the commissioner said in a statement, calling the presentation of the watermelon “unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department.”

Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty said the gesture was offensive to some people, but he didn’t think the recruit should have lost his job over it.

“Between what he did and losing his job, there are a few things that could have been done,” McCarty said. He said that some of the firefighters wanted him to be reinstated to inspire conversation about why the watermelon was seen as offensive by some of the African-Americans.

Since his dismissal, a change.org petition to reinstate Pattinson has gotten about 1,500 signatures.

Not long after his dismissal, Pattison received a big show of support from a number of black firefighters at Engine 55, according to WJBK.

Tadarius Spearman stuck up for Pattison on social media and added a photo of him with a group of African-American firefighters who were in his training class.

Click here to see the photo.

“Just want to let everyone know he’s a real amazing dude and it was all good intentions,” he wrote. “And our entire class (is) supporting him in this. Especially us African-Americans, and that’s all that needs to be said. Stay up brother. #DFD.”

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