A Cool, Calm Discussion Of Possible Racism In The Fire Department

You know what the Houston Fire Department racism mess needed? Some more stirring of the pot.

Luckily, we have city councilwoman Jolanda Jones, who is a Sheila Jackson Lee in training when it comes to publicity, and Jeff Caynon, head of one of the local firefighters' unions, who also knows how to get the spotlight.

Caynon is black, and a fierce supporter of firefighters who have been accused of various racial and sexist incidents. He tends to be in camera range whenever  (see update at end) HFD holds a press conference to express once again that it really, really doesn't tolerate any bad behavior, if such bad behavior ever occurred.

Caynon picked a new way to keep the issue alive yesterday: He wrote a letter saying Jones had accused him of being a "house Negro" at a public meeting.

He wrote:

You imply that I am not really 'black' because I do not share your biased point of view. I do not know where to begin in responding, except to say that you and the race-baiting opportunists criticizing HFD deserve one another. I am indeed interested in keeping my job, and the choice between standing with the men and women of the HPFFA or standing with you is not a difficult one. Your insults are unwarranted, ignorant and damaging.

Jones told the Chronicle she hadn't herself called Caynon a "house Negro," simply repeated what others had said. Which somehow makes a big difference, we guess.

HFD chief Phil Boriskie told Channel 13 the back-and-forth was just normal stuff. "It's our normal family interpersonal relationships, that are normal in your family and in mine and my fire department family that we're struggling with right now," he said.

So let's all forget about it. But not without a look at Jones' infamous Facebook page, where she uses textspeak like some Twittering 12-year-old. In this case, she's talking about how Caynon's local 341 didn't do anything, compared with Phoenix firefighters, to help when the daughter of one of the female firefighters now alleging abuse was killed in a car crash:

B4 I address lettrr distribut'd by Jeff Caynon, Pres. of Local 341 Houston FD Union, whch is less than truthful, let's get bk focusd. Per Jane, Phoenix FD, w/ Black & Hispanic Caucuses of Phoenix FD, raisd $ 2 bring Amanda's remains, Jane's daughtr who died in car wreck, back 2 Houston! They also paid 4 one half of cost of casket. Local 341 d't send card, plants, flowers or send rep 2 Amanda's funeral!

Yes, we see how calmer heads are going to prevail in this one.

Update: Caynon, although he has spoken out forcefully, publicly and regularly on the issue, has not been present at the HFD/racism press conferences. Our apologies.

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