Watermelon, when in season, is available at every grocery store. At many grocery stores, you can buy it whole, quartered, or even cut into rind free, individually wrapped pieces. But, if you show up with one at a certain Detroit firehouse, you’ll be fired. That’s what happened when firefighter trainee Robert Pattison brought a whole watermelon as a present for his new co-workers. Traditionally, probationary firefighters bring in a gift for the existing group. Donuts are the top choice but are not required.
The firefighters at Engine 55 at Joy and Southfield in Detroit are 90 percent African American and some took the watermelon gift as a racist statement. They complained, and Pattison was fired.Fire Commissioner Eric Jones Jones said: “There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department. 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.”