Reversing “Reverse” Racism or Something.

The case of Ricci v. DeStefano involved 17 firefighters who had taken the qualifications exam to become firefighters. All passed, all were white, but one Latino, and the city invalidated the test because they feared a racial discrimination lawsuit. The court found that this was essentially “reverse” racism and violated Title XII.
The ruling yesterday to overturn Ricci v. DeStefano was another bad decision in a series of bad decisions by the SCOTUS that will have implications for communities of color, women and poor people. Legal Momentum tells us why,

The Court created a new, more stringent standard for employment discrimination claims in striking down the New Haven Fire Department’s attempt to ensure that its promotional exam did not discriminate against Black and Latino candidates. We believe that the standard articulated by the Court reflects a flawed interpretation of Title VII and is contrary to congressional intent.
Irasema Garza, President of Legal Momentum, stated: “Employment discrimination continues to be a major problem. To this day, women and minorities remain egregiously under-represented in many employment sectors. Astoundingly, the Court’s decision acknowledges this fact and yet requires employers to avoid policies and practices that would help to remedy this discrimination. This decision will make it far more difficult for women and minorities to get good jobs in fields that continue to exclude them, such as firefighting, and for employers to eliminate barriers that have proved discriminatory in their effect.”
Further, as a supporter of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Legal Momentum strongly disagrees with those who might use the Court’s decision to imply that Judge Sotomayor and her colleagues in the Second Circuit erred in their ruling below. The Second Circuit panel of which Judge Sotomayor was a part acted with appropriate restraint in applying the precedent as it existed at that time. The matter before the Supreme Court involved issues of first impression and the Second Circuit’s opinion was consistent with the views of four Justices on the Supreme Court as well as with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice.

Also, what about the possibility that Alito was also racially biased in making this decision? As Adam aptly asks at Tapped, why is racial discrimination only considered an offense when it is women or people of color being biased against whites?

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118 Comments

  1. Arvilla
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I’m with you completely on these factors Daliah. I think my question here, and my discomfort with the case, is whether we want the government to be the site of correction of these things. I mean, do we really want to be these legally protected classes to correct decades of a culture that says these very groups are inferior. Government interventions just perpetually embed our difference into law and never really seem to transform the attitudes themselves…

  2. Phenicks
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I’d have to see the test and how well it relates to the actual job of firefighting and the administrative duties of the position being tested for.
    But racial tensions were strong there with one f the squads being called the Monkey Island because it consists of mostly black firefighters its not hard to know WHY this is controversial.
    I also have to question how anybody knew what anoyone else scored on the test.

  3. llevinso
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness! Is a simple, “I’m sorry,” completely impossible for you?
    Obviously you were angry about something yesterday while posting. Maybe you came to the boards angry or something in a couple of people’s posts made you angry (something that you interpreted as hostile in their posts that almost no one else seemed to interpret that way). Either way, you decided it would be a good idea to throw a rude, sarcastic and mean-spirited comment Honeybee’s way. Like I said, I agreed with the points you were making, just not the way in which you chose to make them. It was uncalled for. You’ve been called out on it. Apologize and move on.

  4. dhistory
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Justice Alito also wrote a concurrence in which he addressed that the point of civil service exams are a reaction to the corruption in hiring where friends and family had an advantage over other applicants and employees. The union required hiring and promotions be based 60% on objective criteria, such as this test, to reduce corruption and favoritism.
    I have worked in education and testing, and can tell you objective tests are fair. The racial aspect comes from the fact that on average, minorities consistently score about 2/3 to 1 standard deviation below the white mean while Asians score about 1/3 standard deviation above the white mean. However this is true on any test, whether it is a state achievement test, SAT, GRE etc.
    I can offer a statistical analysis of the situation. If you took college level math, you should be able to follow the discussion.
    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/testing.htm

  5. dhistory
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    These schools behave as private clubs when it comes to admissions yet pay no social price for their discrimination. Instead they are afforded lavish praise and respect for their “integrity” and academic excellence.

  6. Arvilla
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I can apologize for using sarcasm. That’s not necessary, and I could’ve made my points without, so for that I apologize.
    I only argued the points because instead of people just calling me out for being sarcastic and/or rude, they tried to pretend I was saying things I wasn’t. It annoys me to have my words mischaracterized so I defended them.
    But yeah, I’ll admit these threads about race put me on edge, because it’s always a reminder that on race issues, most of this community is still as willfully ignorant as the general population. It’s frustrating, so it puts me in a mood.

  7. 76cents
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Below was a comment from the NYTImes article. It addressed the test construction process. It helped me understand the decision a bit better. I have to say I agreed with the court here. If it were a team of women who were up for promotion and the tests were thrown out because not enough men qualified I’d cry foul too.
    DianaLI, NYJune 29th, 20091:36 pm “From reading the opinion, one may conclude that the test was fair. The material was taken directly from the source material (including noting when in the text the question was taken from). Additionally, the majority of the assessment panel was minority (66%). The job analysis questionnaires (which largely helped to determine the type of exam questions) were largely taken from minority officers who were part of the New Haven Fire Department. The test was written at a 10th grade reading level and the qualifications for the positions included the need for a high school diploma. The test was 60 percent written, and 40 percent oral, as per the collective bargaining agreement with the union. The majority of candidates were white, so a largely white make up of the results were not out of the ordinary.
    The CSB listened to 3 experts. Two of these “experts” didn’t even read the exam, and one of these two even offered his company’s services in devising a new exam for the board. The only expert who actually read the exam was a fire expert and former fire chief who was black. He said that the test was fair and was taken straight from the material.
    From these facts, the exam was prepared in a way as to eliminate as much racial disparity as possible. The department wasn’t even allowed to see the final exam before the test to prevent cheating. I don’t see how this test could be any fairer. I believe the Court ruled the correct and logical way”

  8. CS
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Is it not possible that the people who passed studied and those who failed didn’t? That seems to be an explanation no one has even considered yet even though it is the most obvious to me.
    Also, if the issue comes down to affordable study materials, that is an economic issue not a racial issue.
    BTW, if you want to talk about unfair admissions processes, look at the MCAT and medical school. There is an absolutely CRAZY amount of effort required just to apply to medical school. People spend thousands just to take the exam and apply. Besides those costs, the test is so crazy hard that you basically HAVE to take a MCAT class or at least get study books in order to pass. All in all, in order to apply and get accepted into medical school, you need a serious amount of money and anyone without it has almost no chance.
    Sometimes I wonder if all these standardized tests for college, grad school, professional school are a subtle way of maintaining some kind of aristocracy.

  9. 76cents
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I read somewhere that several people of color actually passed the test but because of tenure were not up yet for promotion.* In other words as the spots open if they’ve the minimum years on the job then they would be promotion eligible. Since all this happened 6 years ago you can imagine that a lot of FFs are owed damages then from lost earnings at the higher captain and lietenant’s pay rates. (* I think it was in the New Haven registrar as a response from the Attorney Ms. Torre)

  10. 76cents
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    This I completely agree with.

  11. 76cents
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I don’t buy this.
    Fire exam test preps are available at all libraries in hard copy as well as soft copy form. New Haven and the surrounding towns have excellent library facilities. In addition if you are going for the lieutenant or captain’s exam you can begin studying the day you pass the CPAT or get hired to the job.

  12. 76cents
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Not true,
    For the 118 firemen who took the exams, the pass rate for black candidates was approximately half that of the corresponding rate for white candidates
    The passage rate for the Captain exam was: 16 (64%) of the 25 whites; 3 (38%) of the 8 blacks; 3 (38%) of the 8 Hispanics[6]. The top 9 scorers included 7 whites and 2 Hispanics; given that there were 7 Captain vacancies when the tests were administered, and that the “Rule of Three” in the City Charter mandates that a civil service position be filled from among the three individuals with the highest scores on the exam, it appeared that no blacks and at most two Hispanics would be eligible for promotion.
    The passage rate for the Lieutenant exam was: 25 (58%) of the 43 whites; 6 (32%) of the 19 blacks; 3 (20%) of the 15 Hispanics. All the top 10 scorers were white; given that there were 8 vacancies, under the “Rule of Three” it appeared that no blacks or Hispanics would be eligible for promotion

  13. 76cents
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    For the 118 firemen who took the exams, the pass rate for black candidates was approximately half that of the corresponding rate for white candidates
    The passage rate for the Captain exam was: 16 (64%) of the 25 whites; 3 (38%) of the 8 blacks; 3 (38%) of the 8 Hispanics[6]. The top 9 scorers included 7 whites and 2 Hispanics; given that there were 7 Captain vacancies when the tests were administered, and that the “Rule of Three” in the City Charter mandates that a civil service position be filled from among the three individuals with the highest scores on the exam, it appeared that no blacks and at most two Hispanics would be eligible for promotion.
    The passage rate for the Lieutenant exam was: 25 (58%) of the 43 whites; 6 (32%) of the 19 blacks; 3 (20%) of the 15 Hispanics. All the top 10 scorers were white; given that there were 8 vacancies, under the “Rule of Three” it appeared that no blacks or Hispanics would be eligible for promotion

  14. marie123
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Yeah I don’t get the logic there either. People who went to elite schools can have both sons and daughters.

  15. Megan
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for a great run-down of the legal issues. The news isn’t covering anything except this “reverse racism” angle because THAT’S something people will talk about! The discussions on this thread have all been interesting, but I appreciate that you’ve brought us back to the specifics of the case and explained some of the “legalese” that tends to bog many of us down.

  16. aleks
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Laugh out loud loud loud loud . . .?

  17. aleks
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Should the SAT’s be thrown out every year that Asian American students do disproportionately well>

  18. aleks
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Logrus, meet Samhita.

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