Black Firefighter’s Home Burns After Racist Threats
News| | By Valerie Cools
Kenneth Walker is the only black volunteer firefighter in North Tonawanda, a town in upstate New York. On Monday, he received a racist threat. On Wednesday, his home burned down.
The fire is still being investigated, but it’s hard to believe this is a coincidence. While losing your home in a fire is always tragic, the fact that this could be racially motivated makes it even more horrific.
On Monday, Walker, 28, who is married and has two children, received an anonymous letter that contained both a racial slur and a threat. The letter read: “N*****s are not allowed to be firefighters. No one wants you in this city. You have until the end of the week to resign or you will regret it.”
On Wednesday, Walker was alerted by a neighbor that his apartment was on fire. Fortunately, his wife was at work, and their daughters, aged 6 months and 4 years, were not at home. However, the family’s two cats died in the fire, and everything inside the apartment was destroyed.
“It’s sad that someone is so offended by my presence that they want to burn my house down,” Walker told WGRZ.
While he is understandably shaken, Walker has declared he won’t be giving in to the hateful threat.
“Resign from the fire department would obviously please them, and I don’t want to please them,” he told The Buffalo News. “At the same time, I am going to do what I have to do to protect my family. I am still going to live my life.”
The fire is currently being investigated by the local police and the FBI.
Walker and his family have received much support from the community, including from their landlord, the mayor of North Tonawanda, and Fire Chief Joseph Sikora.
“It’s totally unacceptable,” said Sikora. “It’s sickening. I’m appalled. I thought we were way past that.”
Walker has been with the fire department for two years. Before the fire, he brought the threat to Sikora’s attention, who supported him.
“He’s a good guy, a good worker,” said Sikora on Tuesday. “This is something I never thought I would have to deal with as a Fire Chief, and it really has got me upset. I couldn’t apologize enough. We’ll help him any way we can.”
It seems the community is also willing to help the Walker family in any way. The Gratwick Hose Fire Company is holding a benefit on Sunday, to collect clothing, furniture, and other necessities that would help the Walkers recover from this tragedy.