Nooses, Symbols Of Race Hatred, At Center Of Workplace Lawsuits (NY Times, 07-10-2000)
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – A New York City Black fireman told reporters at a February 10th press conference that the black hangman’s noose, which he held up for them to see, was placed near his gear in a firehouse in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. “I am outraged,” Lanaird Granger, 40, said. He told the press that the noose reminded him of the time in America’s history when lynching was “rampant.” He added that he filed a complaint with the FDNY’s Equal Employment Opportunity office.
According to the New York Daily News, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said Mr. Granger’s allegation was being investigated. “We condemn this type of outrageous behavior, and anyone engaging in such behavior will be dealt with severely,” the Fire Commissioner told the newspaper. Calls to the FDNY by The Final Call were not returned.
Fire Captain Paul Washington, president of the Vulcan Society, the organization of Black firefighters in NYC, told The Final Call that his group is determined not to allow the department to sweep the noose incident under the proverbial rug. “We must keep this issue out front in the public eye,” Mr. Washington insisted. “We are not going to rest until we find the guy who did this,” he added.
He recounted for The Final Call his initial reaction when Mr. Granger showed him the noose. “We were headed to a hearing on another issue, when he showed me the noose. A crazy feeling came over me–looking at it, holding it–knowing that lynchings are a part of our history,” Capt. Washington said. “Did the person that did this know the history of the noose?” he asked.
According to Capt. Washington, the noose incident has struck the Vulcan Society hard. “We have to do something about it,” Capt. Washington repeated several times.
Brooklyn Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D), who chairs the City Council Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, said she plans to use her office to get to the bottom of the noose issue. She said in a press release that the recent issue might be the tip of the iceberg. “This should be a signal to the FDNY that there is something extremely wrong within the Fire Department,” Councilwoman Clarke said.
“I want to express my support for firefighter Lanaird Granger, who has bravely come forward and disclosed what he has been confronted with,” she said. The two-term council member asked that firefighters who have been victimized by such incidents contact her office.
Johnny Brewington, president of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters said incidents such as the hangman’s noose in New York City are not isolated to one fire station or one city. “These incidents continue to happen because Fire Department leadership has not embraced confronting these issues,” Mr. Brewington stressed.
In a letter to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg concerning the ‘hangman’s noose,’ Mr. Brewington said: “Top management must take the initiative to change their attitudes and behavior first, in order to redesign policy and provide the education that will implement change throughout the organization.”
The Vulcan Society agrees with Mr. Brewington, and stated so in their press release: “Changes in attitudes in the rank and file will only occur when attitudes at the top change.” The organization also laid some of the blame at the doorstep of Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Scoppetta. “The Vulcan Society sees the noose as symbolic of the attitudes held by the mayor and the commissioner, attitudes that prevent the Fire Department from making the changes necessary to diversify.”
According to the Vulcan Society, Blacks make up 2.9 percent of the firefighters. Observers say that in the February graduating class, there were only two Blacks out of 160 new firefighters. Blacks make up 21.3 percent of the city’s municipal work force. FDNY officials counter the anti-diversification argument by saying that they are working to increase the number of firefighters from all racial groups.
The Manhattan-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the site of the press conference, in a letter to the press said they were ready to file a complaint in federal court, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and of 42 D.S.C., 1981 and 1983, as well as the New York State Constitution and Human Rights Law.