Your Friendly, Neighborhood Racist Firefighters

Gabriel Nathan
8 min readApr 14, 2022
Photo by Matt C on Unsplash

Small town news used to be small time news. A cat stuck in a tree. A car rolled through a stop-sign and the driver was sighted, and cited. This ho-hum borough council meeting induced more yawns than it did votes, and that local library held a bake sale.

These days, though, in the populist post-Trump presidency America, local news is an essential bellwether that must be watched carefully. Suddenly, a few ultra-conservative schmucks on a school board is sufficient to tamp down on progressive pedagogical practices, forcing dedicated educators to watch their backs. These days, in a land where faux-moralistic, gun-loving right-wingers are lustily jockeying for position to throw ribald red meat at insurrectionists-to-be, what’s happening in your local firehouse is as important as what’s happening during stump speeches in New Hampshire and Iowa.

And just… what IS happening inside your local firehouse? Chances are, you don’t know, and you wouldn’t want to know; but you definitely should.

Since the brutal and masochistic murder of George Floyd, much of the nation’s attention, rightfully so, has been on police departments and identifying and exposing systemic racism that plagues these paramilitary institutions. Efforts to take the police out of the psychiatric emergency response system are also laudable and are taking place in different pockets of the country, with no real centralized notion or understanding of how to do that and, in some areas, no desire to do so whatsoever. Police officers are being arrested, charged, and, finally, in some cases, even convicted in cases where they take a life without just cause. Things in American law enforcement culture are changing, though glacially. But a story recently came out near my doorstep in the suburban southeast just a stone’s throw from Philly that caught my attention, and it wasn’t cops this time whose abhorrent racism was on display; it was firefighters.

During a Zoom meeting, members of the Briarcliffe Fire Department in Glenolden, Delaware County, PA met with members of two other fire departments as well as state and county officials to discuss emergency response bizz and also the possible consolidation of services between the three departments. When the meeting concluded, some of the Briarcliffe Boyz stayed on the Zoom and…

Gabriel Nathan

Gabe is Editor in Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, a mental health publication. He drives an old VW year round and wears corduroy trousers in the summer.