On September 30, a white Detroit probationary firefighter was fired after he brought a watermelon to the station for a staff meet and greet.
Local Fox 2 reports that 41-year-old Robert Pattison added a pink bow to his watermelon gift, making some feel that he was making a racist joke. The station he was set to join has a high number of black firefighters.
A trial @DetroitFire fighter was fired for bringing a watermelon as a gift to his new crew at engine 55. Told it was racially insensitive. pic.twitter.com/m0oLOlSXs1
— Taryn Asher Fox 2 (@TarynAsherFox2) October 7, 2017
Fire Commissioner Eric Jones officially fired him after learning of the gift, and released a statement that said there is a “zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior” and that he perceived Pattison's behavior as "unsatisfactory."
"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," Jones said. "After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee."
Shortly after news of Pattison's firing went public, one employee, Tadarius Spearman, took to social media to defend Pattison.
Spearman posted a photo of Pattison along with some black Detroit firefighters from the area calling Pattison a "good dude."
"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."