Fire Captain Could Be Fired for Controversial Posts About BLM, Riots, Race


Nashville Fire Department Captain Tracy Turner isn’t exactly a deep political thinker. Neither are most people on social media — but in Turner’s case, that could cost him his job.

Turner has some particularly strong views on the Black Lives Matter movement, race, the recent protest movements and whether or not you should use face masks in public places. None of them are particularly deep and some of them are bound to anger people.

In Nashville, Tennessee, members of the fire department are required to make clear their opinions on social media are theirs alone and have been strongly encouraged not to make controversial social media statements.

Prominent voices in the community want Turner fired — although not because he breached those regulations. They just don’t like what he had to say.

It’s not particularly difficult to see why. Turner, who works at the city’s Station 18, is a firefighter in a majority-black district, for one. Second, many of his remarks (while not necessarily offensive) have the relative depth of a particularly riled-up caller to talk radio. Even if you may agree, in principle, with some of his positions, this isn’t the man you want speaking out about them.

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Here are a few of Turner’s Facebook musings, as per WKRN-TV and WZTV-TV:

On slavery: “If all white people can be guilty for slavery because of a few plantation owners… then black people get to share the same guilt. There were Black plantation owners as well. So if all whites are guilty so are blacks.”

On the recent protests: “It’s not that the Anti-Fa and BLM thugs are so strong that they are able to take over part of a city…It’s that the Democrat Mayors are so weak as to let it happen. Shameful.”

On race: “What we done? We have raised a generation of morons that think that police are evil, especially the white ones …that all white people are racist and privileged …what have we done?”

Should this firefighter lose his job?

On racism: “If you’ve been mistreated by someone of a different race, most of the time it’s because one of you are a jerk. Not your skin color.”

On wearing masks: “Lady asked me where my mask was today in a store. I told her I roll Commando!”

However uncomplicated and controversial Turner’s view of the world may be, calling it “hate speech” would be a stretch. That wasn’t the opinion of two prominent Nashville politicians though, who’ve made Turner’s comments a heated public debate.

“When Captain Turner reported for duty Thursday for his scheduled shift NFD leadership met with him to discuss the posts. They placed him on paid administrative leave pending a disciplinary panel,” the Nashville Fire Department said in a statement to WKRN last week.

“He will not be allowed to return to work until after that process is completed. The hearing typically happens within 10 days.”

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On Thursday, Turner issued an apology on his Facebook page, writing, “I would like to put out a public apology to anyone I may have offended …I am a Conservative, I love my job as a firefighter and have worked in the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Nashville …some of closest friends are black fireman.”

The fact that this wasn’t enough to mollify the left shouldn’t surprise anyone. Tennessee Democratic state Rep. Vincent Dixie, who represents constituents served by Station 18, wants Turner fired, questioning whether the captain would really give his all for black residents who needed the fire department’s aid.

“The constituents, the first thing without me saying anything, the first thing they were saying, ‘How do I know that he’s going to take care of me? That he’s going to come and give me the best aid that I need in order to survive?’ and people are worried about that,” Dixie said.

“When your clients or your customers come from the same background that you’re denigrating, or that you have these biased opinions towards — how am I feeling that I’m getting the best product — that I’m getting the best from you.

“Is that the person that the Nashville Fire Department feels is giving 100 percent every time they go out on a call? So I think that’s up to the Fire Department to decipher. They know him better than I do, I can only judge his actions and his words in which I don’t have much confidence in,” he added.

This is a curious line of thinking — that a fireman might pick and choose how much effort they’re going to give based on the neighborhood they’re assigned to or the race of the individual involved.

It feels a little bit like Dixie just cut-and-pasted the arguments he would use regarding a police officer who said these things on social media — where the issue of judgment calls based on race might hold a bit of water — into his take on a firefighter who said the same things.

It’s difficult on this end to imagine a situation where a fireman would just stand by and watch a house burn because he didn’t like the skin color of the residents, but apparently not in the mind of Dixie.

He made it clear there’s no amount of apologizing Turner could do to keep his job.

“Honestly, I don’t think he should be a fireman and a first responder in an African-American, a predominantly African-American, community,” Dixie said. “I just don’t believe that because I don’t believe that he’s giving us 100 percent effort every time he goes out on a call and — when he sees a black person that’s in need — that he’s giving a 100 percent effort in order to save this person.”

“We’re past asking for additional training, sensitivity training, and things of that nature,” he added. “You know what’s right and you know what’s wrong.”

Nashville Metro Council Member Emily Benedict, meanwhile, used Turner’s case to say she doesn’t think any individual should be a public official if they express any reservations whatsoever about the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The actions of Mr. Turner are yet another example of the institutional racism that exists in American culture today. When vulgarities like this come to light, we need to have a dialogue. We need to directly address these unacceptable behaviors,” she said in a statement.

“Outside of the consequences he faces, we can use this as an opportunity to show others in the department and the community that this must be talked about today. We need to have a conversation about race. We need to listen, and try to look through a different lens than our own. All of his hate speech should be discussed, including the reference to the LGBTQ community.

“The BLM movement is vital to the future of our country. I want to see, and be part, of the change we need. Every public official should, from the President to the local Council, and every level in between, support this movement. Our country can heal when we are accountable for our history and work to change it,” she added.

It’s amazing the number of words in Benedict’s statement that don’t mean what they’re supposed to. Turner doesn’t want to have a “dialogue” — not, at least, with people who might think that Turner’s comments don’t necessarily constitute a fireable offense.

I would assume she doesn’t want to talk with people who don’t necessarily think aligning yourself with the beliefs of the Black Lives Matter movement should be a prerequisite for every public official in the nation.

Perhaps what’s most striking is how little of Benedict’s statement actually has to do with Turner.

Instead, she makes it clear she’s more interested in making an example out of him, given his punishment is a convenient jumping-point for a very specific set of arguments.

It’s well-known that people have their lives and careers upended and destroyed all the time because making them a sacrificial lamb serves an ideological purpose. You tend to lose people, however, when you make it clear that you’re out looking for sacrificial lambs.

What was interesting is that neither Dixie nor Benedict is quoted mentioning a June memo from the deputy director chief of the Nashville Fire Department which said, “employees are expected to refrain from social media and online activities that reflect poorly upon the Nashville Fire Department.”

“Nashville Fire Department employees while using social media must state in clear terms that their expressed views are theirs alone and do not reflect the views of the Nashville Fire Department,” the memo added.

If either Dixie or Benedict specifically cited this memo, it remained unrecorded in either news article. If either politician thought Turner was unqualified to serve as a fireman, they should be waving that thing around like a national flag at a World Cup match.

If you want an actionable reason to say Turner should be fired, there you go. All of us need to be especially careful about our social media postings in this day and age — but in this case, Nashville firemen were very specifically warned about it in a time of heightened political emotions.

Instead, what we got was Two Minutes Hate against a fire captain who they said, because of some Facebook rants, wasn’t going to give his all to help black people in danger and needed to be made an example of. This wasn’t, in other words, about whether or not Turner should be fired. It’s whether Turner’s punishment was an opportunity to get some attention in the media.

It’s worth noting neither Dixie nor Benedict said anything as controversial as Turner did, but there was a noticeable similarity among what all three had to say: They were all guided by a spirit of raw emotion, one that was unmoved by logic or equanimity.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture