If Anyone Tells You Racism Is Over in America, Show Them This Fire Chief

If you're a black person traveling through Bullitt County, Kentucky, you shouldn't expect much help from the local fire department when you're in trouble. 

Here's what happened: Video posted by local news station WDRB seems to show Southeast Bullitt Fire Chief Julius Hatfield calling a black family involved in a two-car accident "niggers" while simultaneously going out of his way to provide far better assistance to the white man in the other vehicle.

Chege Mwangi claims that he, his wife and two children were treated differently than pickup truck driver Loren Dicken after they collided on I-65 in September. Dicken was injured in the collision, explaining some of it, but video from a sheriff's deputy's body cam shows that Hatfield may have also targeted Mwangi for poor treatment as a result of his race.

WDRB reports:

Video from a Bullitt County sheriff's deputy's body camera shows Hatfield's department responding to a car accident on I-65, south of the Clermont exit in September.

"Well, I've got a family of four from Cincinnati, I got to do something with," the Bullitt County deputy said in the video.

Hatfield replied, "We ain't taking no n------ here." Then he laugh[ed].

Hatfield then offered the white family a free tire change, in order to "save [them] a bill." Dicken was taken to the hospital and released, after which firefighters did him the courtesy of driving him to the firehouse to retrieve his car.

But Mwangi received an entirely different standard of treatment. Firefighters didn't assist him or his family, and a sheriff's deputy told him to call AAA instead.

Then it got even worse. In a separate incident, WDRB reporter Valerie Chinn asked Hatfield about "financial mismanagement and empty firehouses" in the fire department, inspiring the following jaw-dropping exchange in which the fire chief resorted to racist taunts:

"Why are there so many firehouses that are empty?" WDRB's Valerie Chinn asked Hatfield at the meeting.

"Do you understand English, darling?" Hatfield replied. "Do you understand English?"

Hatfield tried to have Chinn and her photographer removed from the public meeting. 

"Turn that camera off," Hatfield ordered. "I've asked you that in a nice way. Buddy, call the cops and get them here."

"I asked you once tonight if you understand English," he added. "I'm speaking English."

During that same 10-minute meeting, Hatfield allegedly threw a microphone at Chinn. He later apologized, as well as stated he didn't remember saying the N-word on I-65. According to Hatfield, it must have been a slip of the tongue.

Why you should care: It wasn't a slip of the tongue, and this is far from an isolated incident. In 2012, an Associated Press poll found that 51% of Americans express "explicit anti-black attitudes," up from 48% in 2008. An implicit racial attitudes test actually found anti-black bias existed in 56% of those polled. Similar results were found for non-Hispanic whites. Basically, there's still a lot of anti-black racism lurking around the country even if white people refuse to believe it.

There's a reason minorities tend not to trust the authorities: Scholarly research has found they report more direct negative personal experiences with law enforcement. Meanwhile, minorities often receive less or slower help than whites during emergencies. There's even a psychological basis for this. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that "severe emergencies with black victims elicited high levels of aversion from white helpers, and these high levels of aversion were directly related to the slower help offered to black victims but not to white victims."

These are big obstacles for minority Americans, and it's even worse when someone whose job is to protect the population is running around dropping the N-bomb. That's just terrible.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Alton Sterling’s children sue Baton Rouge over shooting, alleging racism and excessive force

The Sterling family alleges that police officers sent racist text messages about people who protested the black man's shooting death.

3 Chicago officers charged with conspiracy in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald

The three Chicago police officers allegedly conspired to prevent an independent investigation and prosecution against Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Video shows officer threatening black man for jaywalking without an ID

The officer is not currently under investigation.

Black teens handcuffed for selling water on National Mall are now getting job offers

"I feel like it was a bad situation turned into a good situation."

3 of the Central Park 5 men just received honorary high school diplomas

All of the men in the Central Park Five will receive the diplomas they were denied after their wrongful convictions as teenagers.

Another sign marking a scene from Emmett Till's murder has been vandalized

It's at least the second time in the past year a sign marking Till's murder has been vandalized.

Alton Sterling’s children sue Baton Rouge over shooting, alleging racism and excessive force

The Sterling family alleges that police officers sent racist text messages about people who protested the black man's shooting death.

3 Chicago officers charged with conspiracy in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald

The three Chicago police officers allegedly conspired to prevent an independent investigation and prosecution against Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Video shows officer threatening black man for jaywalking without an ID

The officer is not currently under investigation.

Black teens handcuffed for selling water on National Mall are now getting job offers

"I feel like it was a bad situation turned into a good situation."

3 of the Central Park 5 men just received honorary high school diplomas

All of the men in the Central Park Five will receive the diplomas they were denied after their wrongful convictions as teenagers.

Another sign marking a scene from Emmett Till's murder has been vandalized

It's at least the second time in the past year a sign marking Till's murder has been vandalized.