Hot on the Trail of History

A local political firestorm is brewing in New York City over the possible nomination of Mylan Denerstein, a high-powered lawyer in the New York attorney general’s office, as commissioner of the New York City fire department. The tabloids say that she is on a short list of candidates, but faces a heated uphill battle for the job. Apparently some people don’t like the fact that Denerstein has never been a fire fighter, or smoke eater, in New York lingo. The bigger issue is how a black woman will effectively run a department in which only 3% of the force is black and a pathetic 0.29% are women, if I’ve done the math right. If she does get appointed as commissioner, she will be the first black woman to hold that post. That’s quite a task ahead of her. But as a Brooklyn resident who was a federal prosecutor, it doesn’t sound like Denerstein is afraid of a challenge. (By the way, I never buy The New York Post. Too much trashy reporting on its pages. Tonight’s copy was lying around in the train station on my way home, so I picked it up.)

Since this is the Latte Cafe, and we like to acknowledge people’s mixed backgrounds, let’s set at least one thing straight. Denerstein is obviously biracial. You can say she’s black, because those features dominate her appearance, but don’t stop there. Acknowledge the other half of the woman’s heritage. Apparently, her mother is black and her father is (presumably) white and Jewish. If Denerstein is the right fit for the job and she wants the post, let’s wish her great success in the next phase of her career.

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