Racist firefighters?

Here’s something from the (Channel) 4 News website:

Doreen Lawrence says she has “no doubt” that racism was involved in the Grenfell Tower tragedy, saying: “Had that been a block full of white people in there, they would have done everything to get them out as fast as possible and make sure that they do what they needed to do.”

She said: “Nobody wanted to mention the word ‘race’ in the whole thing. Cos when I saw the residents who lived in that block, to me it was under no doubt around the racism that existed at that time.”

Now, I have the highest admiration for Mrs Lawrence whose son Stephen was murdered in 1993 by a bunch of racist thugs. It is hard to imagine how she must have felt at the time, and since, because it should never have happened. But this is totally wrong, bang out of order.

Things were made worse by the comments of Paulos Tekel whose five year old son died in the fire. He said this:

“We’ve been let down by firefighters – we were hoping we’d be rescued. They are professional firefighters, we hoped they were going to take us, they were going to rescue us, but they didn’t.”

“The truth: the building burnt because of the combustible material; the people died because of the response of the fire brigade. If they were professionally responding properly, many of the people who died could have been here today – including my son.”

Regarding the last bit, the London Fire Brigade can’t respond in writing because the first part of the report is due to be published. As I wasn’t there, and am not in possession of any of the facts, I don’t suppose I can say much either. However, what I can say is that I find it impossible to believe.

The suggestion is, unquestionably, that firefighters made what would have made a conscious and deliberate decision to react in a less committed way than if the tenants had been white. Now, I know and have known people who work in all the emergency services and I have never come across anyone who even considered the colour of someone’s skin when setting out to save life. Emergencies, by their very definition, happen incredibly quickly. These frontline workers are highly trained, highly motivated and incredibly brave. And many of them are ‘of colour’.

Let’s see what comes out of the inquiries that are going on. If there was racism in any area, it needs to be dealt with. What I find unbelievable, and actually highly offensive, is the suggestion that firefighters are little more than racist bigots. No. They run to danger as lesser mortals, like me, run away from danger.

I still like and admire Mrs Lawrence but she needs to say sorry. As we all do from time to time.