Add Kevin Moore’s name to the growing list of unsuspecting black people who are becoming victims of racial profiling in public areas for no apparent reason.
A neighbor called police on Moore, a Black firefighter in Oakland, California, as he was conducting a safety inspection, dressed in his official firefighter uniform and carrying his city-issued identification. Moore’s large bright-red city fire truck was parked nearby.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Moore was participating in “legally mandated outside inspections to determine if vegetation posed an extra risk to homes in the event of a wildfire.” Moore was carrying a clipboard and a radio while working in an upscale area of the Oakland hills.
Last month, a neighbor called 911 to report Moore as a suspicious person and a week later, in the same neighborhood, someone else demanded to see Moore’s ID because Moore was deemed distrustful.
Moore told the neighbor that if he was still concerned, he could check the street and see “a big red fire engine,” the Chronicle reported.
“I try to put myself in other people’s shoes, like if I see someone in my yard, I’d ask what they’re doing,” Moore told the Chronicle. “That’s why I always call out, ‘Hello! Hello! Oakland Fire Department!’ Because I want to be heard. I just don’t want somebody to look out their window and see somebody in their backyard.”
“He kind of startled me,” Moore recalled. “He says, ‘Well, what are you doing here?’ I say, ‘We’re here doing our annual vegetation inspection.’ Then he asks for ID. I say no problem. He takes a picture of my ID and says I need to get a different one. I’ve had that ID for years. It’s kind of dark, and I’m more of a dark-skinned black guy, but you can still see me.”
Moore was in the neighborhood to help keep the residents safe but some of Moore’s colleagues said some neighbors only see Moore as a Black man, not a highly trained city employee, even though Moore was clearly dressed in his fireman’s uniform.
Here’s one important fact these neighbors should know. In 2008, Moore was part of a group of firefighters honored by the City Council for “bravery and heroism” when they leaped into a gulley to save passengers trapped inside an overturned vehicle during a rainstorm, then ventured into a canal to search for a 10-month-old baby who was thrown from the vehicle.
“It’s not fair to him, and it’s actually not safe for him to be going into these backyards due to the sociopolitical climate,” Megan Bryan, a fellow firefighter, told the Chronicle. Bryan said that no one had ever called the police on her or other white firefighters carrying out inspections. Bryan said she plans to partner with Moore to watch his back.
Black firefighters said racism in Oakland is a fact of life.
“It’s extremely unfortunate,” Fire Capt. Damon Covington, president of the Oakland Black Firefighters Association, told the Chronicle.
“From the outside, it certainly appears to be unfair and unwarranted,” he said. “The fire service is a microcosm of the world. Racism exists in the world, and it exists in Oakland and everywhere else.”
If Moore’s situation sounds familiar, it should: It’s part of a troubling series of racial profiling incidents where white people are calling the police on innocent, unsuspecting black folks who are simply trying to live their lives. Last week, a white woman in San Francisco –dubbed “Permit Patty” — called the police on an 8-year-old girl for selling bottles of water in her own neighborhood.
In April, a white woman in Oakland, California, nicknamed “BBQ Becky” called the police on a Black family who she accused of grilling illegally in a public park. Video of the incident went viral, generating hilarious memes.
And last month, I wrote a column I called strolling while Black.
Donald Sherman, an African-American lawyer and father, was pushing a stroller carrying his baby, Caleb, at Kingman and Heritage Islands Park near the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. A white woman who was jogging past Sherman – for reasons that are still mind-boggling – called the police to report “a suspicious man walking the bike path with a baby.”
Weeks after two Black men were arrested in Starbucks and three Black women were harassed unnecessarily for checking into an Airbnb, Sherman was questioned by a law enforcement officer just because he wanted his baby to get some fresh air.
In a recent incident that some called “Golfing While Black,” a Pennsylvania golf club owner called police on five African-American female members after the club’s co-owner said that the women were playing too slowly. The black women have a different version of events: They said they were discriminated against. No charges were filed and the golf club management apologized to the women.
And now Moore, a decorated firefighter, has also been racially profiled – twice– simply for doing his job.
“It’s obvious he’s doing an inspection,” Vince Crudele, supervisor of the fire department’s inspection program, told the Chronicle.
“Kevin’s wearing his blue wool firefighter pants, he’s got a radio and (a department) jacket and shirt on,” Crudele said. “It’s unfortunate that somebody would mistake an Oakland firefighter, a professional who would go into harm’s way every day to protect citizens, as someone who was there for criminal intent. Kevin’s out there doing his job well and representing the Oakland Fire Department with the highest integrity.”
What do you think?
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