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If This WWII Vet Was Defending Gay Soldiers When He Used The Word ‘Faggot,’ Should He Still Be Fired?

Should a corporate employee ever utter the words “faggot,” “nigger,” “dyke,” “spic,” or “wetback” while on the job? Certainly not. But how about when you are using one of those words in the course of discussing discrimination. That’s exactly what Freddy Schmitt claims he did with the word “faggot” — which got him fired from American Airlines at JFK, where the 82-year-old WWII vet had worked for 54 years. Known as “Papa Freddy,” Schmitt used the phrase “Back then, a faggot coulda saved my life” when discussing the upcoming repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Now, the ground crew worker certainly could have chosen a much better word to describe a gay person, and it’s clear that Freddy is actually in favor of gays serving openly in the military. He just expressed himself … horrifically. And age absolutely is not an excuse for not learning that some terms simply aren’t acceptable anymore; old white guys don’t get to call black men “boy,” for instance.

Schmitt had little to say about the remark in December that got him fired last month as a ground-crew worker following a suspension and two hearings. He just wishes he could have stayed on the job until November, when he was planning to retire with a milestone under his belt. “It would look nice, going out with 55 years,” Schmitt said. “After 54 years, all I want is to go out in good faith.”

Schmitt is appealing the termination through arbitration, but the process can take months, according to union officials. Nobody disputes that Schmitt — a baggage crew chief — used the term, or that the pugnacious Brooklyn native didn’t exactly grovel with remorse when reprimanded by a supervisor. But the context should be taken into account, say Schmitt’s former airline crewmates.

As punishment, not only does Freddy lose his job, but also his health benefits; he’ll keep his pension. And as much as I’d love to have somebody who supports our right to serve in the military, I also wouldn’t be inclined to give a pass to a 25-year-old who says something as backhanded as “Niggers built this great country into what it is today.”

By:           Max Simon
On:           Mar 8, 2011
Tagged: , , , ,

  • 19 Comments
    • greenmanTN
      greenmanTN

      90+% of the time when someone complains about “political correctness” what they really mean is it’s too bad they can’t call people names without getting into trouble. But political correctness *can* be used in a bad way, as a means to stifle dissent or a way to control the dialog and you can go overboard with it. If fighting over words and nomenclature gets in the way before any substantial discussion can occur, did it really serve a noble purpose? I guess we each have to answer that for ourselves.

      Does context matter? Absolutely. Of COURSE it matters that he was actually defending gays when he used the “wrong” word! This is an older, rough-spoken man. Isn’t his defense of gays in the military enough of a sign of his heart being in the right place (especially in comparison to many others his age) without getting sidetracked by whether or not the way he said it was perfect? I think so.

      In the example used in this article, what if an older person said “colored” or “blacks” while speaking against racism? Do you disregard the sentiment, ignore the message in order to “educate” the speaker about how they’ve failed to adopt African-American as the proper term? Maybe you succeeded in teaching that person that lesson but you’ve also probably assured that they will never speak out against racism again out of fear of saying the wrong thing.

      I’d hardly call that a win.

      Mar 8, 2011 at 7:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kev C
      Kev C

      At first I was concerned, but then I didn’t give a fuck.

      Mar 8, 2011 at 7:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Benjamin M
      Benjamin M

      I agree that context does matter. My grandmother will sometimes slip and say the word “colored” rather than african-american (she catches herself mid-word). BUT she is a jewish woman who lived through WWII and saw what racism gets you. That was just the accepted term, and one of, if not the least repugnant ways of referring to african-americans at the time she was growing up. Give the guy a pass and just ask him to say Gay. if we just get people fired for saying it just once, how can we hope to educate people as to what is offensive/appropriate in the first place?

      Mar 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Marc
      Marc

      Give the guy a break. He is from a much different time period. Hell, I’ve heard worse from older folks. At least he seemed to mean well.

      Mar 8, 2011 at 8:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark from Queensland
      Mark from Queensland

      Give the man a break! He was speaking up to defend dadt, in his own way. My own dad is of the WWII era and even though he knows better, he does slip once in a while. 54, almost 55 years – good grief, I don’t really care! Give him a break!

      Mar 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark
      Mark

      I once overheard a group of Southerners talking about gays. Most of the guys in the group were saying some pretty vicious things, but one guy spoke up and said something like, “What do you care? Queers ain’t harming anyone.” I thought it was pretty cool and told the guy later that he rocked. I suppose I could have criticized him for saying ‘queer’, but that might have discouraged him from ever speaking up again.

      Mar 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • David Farrell
      David Farrell

      It’s great that this guy was speaking out in favor of gay rights but was penalized for using the wrong word. I just emailed AA asking them to reconsider.

      Mar 8, 2011 at 10:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • reason
      reason

      I agree with the popular sentiment, context is always a huge factor. If a foreigner came into a store and asked for a size 12 meter shoe, I think most people with half a brain would bring them a size 12. He used the wrong terminology, big deal, to strip him of an achievement for standing on the right side of the issue plus fighting for this country in one of the most brutal wars in history is callous. It just goes to show how out of touch some of the writers on this blog can be, pitiful. A decent supervisor would have unraveled their panties, told the gentlemen never to utter those words again and got on with their work.

      Mar 8, 2011 at 11:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LukeJoe
      LukeJoe

      Ouch, I hope he get’s his health benefits back. What a cheap way to save a buck. The best thing we could do is create a support group “Faggots for Old Crotchety Civil Rights Supporters!” Not saying he picked the best phrasing, just saying he shouldn’t loose his health benefits.

      Mar 8, 2011 at 11:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DavyJones
      DavyJones

      With only that sentence to go on, I could certainly see how he could have meant the word ironically. As in: ‘Back then, [someone you call] a faggot coulda saved my life’.

      Mar 8, 2011 at 11:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jeffree
      Jeffree

      I say, give the guy a pass —unless he had a history of using that kind of a language, being told not to use it & still doing it. He may not be aware of the alternative words because that’s the word he’s heard more often.

      I’d to have him become a homophobe just based on this reprimand, because he sure doesn’t seem like one now.

      Mar 9, 2011 at 12:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jeffree
      Jeffree

      oops–last paragraph, I meant to say “I’d hate to have him….”

      Mar 9, 2011 at 12:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • greenmanTN
      greenmanTN

      Yeah, like this wasn’t just an excuse to strip him of costly retirement benefits?

      And who was it who turned him in? That’s what I’d like to know. Dollars to donuts it was his supervisor who went whining to HR after Schmitt “didn’t exactly grovel with remorse.” This reeks of HR bullshit, not a complaint from an offended gay person.

      Hey, if some old fart says “I don’t have any problem with faggots” and MEANS it, I’ll take that any day over people like the wizened old twat in CO lecturing people about what God made buttholes for.

      Mar 9, 2011 at 1:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sami
      Sami

      His comments are of his generation.

      Boy rapist and killer, Gordon Northcott, was commonly referred to as a perverted faggot by the media and general public. He was the one who was convicted and hanged for killing four boys in the Wineville (California) Chicken Coop Murders back in 1928. His perversions were the basis of the film “Changeling”.

      My grandparents were horrified that I referred to people of colour as “blacks”; to them the correct term was “coloured”.

      Mar 9, 2011 at 1:47 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kev C
      Kev C

      @greenmanTN: Since when do gays have to accept every stupid supporter as an ally? Just because he’s from a different generation does that mean he can call blacks the N* word? How about asian slurs, can he use them? F that, F him. Dumb old dumb guy is dumb because he never learned.

      Mar 9, 2011 at 1:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BDinUK
      BDinUK

      If it had been a gay guy making a joking comment about “fags”, would he still have been fired?

      Mar 9, 2011 at 8:11 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kev C
      Kev C

      And …. the word faggot has been around a while, but it only became a commonly used slur in the 1970s and 80s. In his era, terms like queer, sissy, pansy, fairy, fruit, were used as slang, while pervert, homosexual, sodomite were scare terms. So don’t tell me that he grew up using the word faggot, because he didn’t.

      Mar 9, 2011 at 9:11 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • scott
      scott

      It seems a little too convenient that AA saves a butload of money for firing him. Granted, AA has long catered to the gay market and is loathe to cross us in any way but this wasn’t news untilled they fired him. 1 year from medical? Give him his benefits back.

      Mar 9, 2011 at 9:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      Have they fired others fo this…or is it an easy way to cancel his health benefits right before he retired?

      Mar 9, 2011 at 10:47 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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