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Kansas City Fire Department faces heat in recent lawsuits

Racial discrimination often flies under the radar, just low enough to avoid detection. But just because it’s flying low doesn’t mean it’s not doing significant damage.

In a recent article from The New York Times entitled, Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys, we see that white boys who grow up either rich or poor have a much greater chance of ending up as a rich adult. On the flip side, we see that black boys who grow up either rich or poor, have a much greater chance of ending up as a poor adult.

The data certainly shows that black men consistently earn less than white men of a similar financial background. Looking at the Kansas City Fire Department (KCFD) offers one explanation as to why this is happening.

Kansas City Fire Department

In May of 2018, Kansas City Star reporter, Tony Rizzo, reported that KCFD was facing another discrimination law suit related to race.

Last October, an African-American firefighter, Tarshish Jones, with the KCFD was awarded $356,694 in damages because of his suit against the city. Jones, who had been eligible for captain for twelve years, was marked down on the verbal testing of the captain’s test five times despite scoring high in other categories. According to the lawsuit, Jones sat by watching “…similarly situated Caucasian officers of less experience and seniority and lower scores on the written tests, receive promotions to captain...”

In this most recent lawsuit against KCFD, Travis Yeargans, a twenty-three-year veteran of the department, alleges the he is not the lone victim in the KCFD’s “…pattern and practice of not promoting African-Americans to captain or to any position above driver because of race."

The stats

  • Kansas City’s African-American population: 30%
  • KCFDs percentage of African-American firefighters: 13.5%
  • Percentage of captain’s positions held by African-American firefighters: 7.8%

While the answer to the income gap between white and black men of similar backgrounds is certainly not this simple, part of the inequality certainly stems from the discreet cases of racial discrimination that happen daily in the U.S.

Moving the ball forward toward the goal of racial equality is not possible without the bravery of victims who are willing to come forward.

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