DETROIT – A firefighter in Detroit was fired for bringing a watermelon to a predominately black fire station, WJBK reports.
Robert Pattison, 41, was a probationary firefighter at Engine 55. It’s tradition for the new arrivals to bring a gift when they first start out as a way to greet their new team. Most people bring in doughnuts, Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty told WJBK.
But Pattison decided to bring in a watermelon wrapped in a pink ribbon. Some of the African-American firefighters took offense since watermelon has been used as a racist symbol dating back to the slavery era.
“When you get your first detail at a firehouse, you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into,” said Engine 55 firefighter Patrick Trout. “So you would have to say it was probably a bad call.”
The fire commissioner said Pattinson was officially discharged before he officially started the job.
Pattison said it was not a joke and that he did not mean to offend anyone.
The fire commissioner said there is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior.