Detroit’s Black Firefighters Back White Recruit Fired over ‘Racially Insensitive’ Watermelon

A group of black firefighters from Detroit are backing their white colleague after he was fired on his first day for bringing a “racially insensitive” watermelon to work.

Robert Pattinson, 41, was fired after introducing himself to his fellow firefighters by bringing in a watermelon with a pink bow on top as part of workplace tradition of new recruits bringing in a gift for fellow employees on their first day on the job.

Yet Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty confirmed that some staff argued it was “racially insensitive” to bring a watermelon to a firehouse, and Pattinson was consequently discharged by Fire Commissioner Eric Jones, who described the incident as “offensive”:

There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department. On Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Engine 55, a trial firefighter (probationary employee) engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee.

However, a number of black firefighters from the same department reacted to the incident with a big show of support for Pattinson, describing him as an “amazing dude” who had “good intentions.”

“Just want to let everyone know he’s a real amazing dude and it was all good intentions,” firefighter Tadarius Spearman wrote in a Facebook post, alongside ten African-American firefighters. “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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