I have been waiting to blog about this case (Ricci v. DeStefano), not to be dramatic, but because I wanted to understand the complex issues that it presents. My patience has been rewarded, and so have you. George Will (Connecticut ties include being a Trinity College graduate) and Attorney David Rosen (a New Haven lawyer who brought race bias cases since the 70s) have provided the two sides of this coin far better than I ever could have.
Mr. Will writes:
“Racial spoils systems must involve incessant mischief because they require a rhetorical fog of euphemisms and blurry categories (e.g., “race-conscious” measures that somehow do not constitute racial discrimination) to obscure stark facts, such as: If Ricci and half a dozen others who earned high scores were not white, the city would have proceeded with the promotions.”
Attorney Rosen writes, in the Hartford Courant:
“It should recognize that it is not discrimination for New Haven to try to comply with the same civil rights law that led to more equal employment in the first place. The federal law against employment discrimination was intended to encourage employers like New Haven to act voluntarily to end group disadvantages. It was not intended to be a trap, damning employers when they act to head off possibly unlawful exclusion of minorities as well as when they don’t.”
Of course, the devil is always in the details. I tend to think that Attorney Rosen has it right. We are not yet in that “promised land” that Dr. King dreamt about where we can simply move forward without thinking about our racist past. I do not believe that New Haven refused to promote Mr. Ricci because he is white. I believe that it simply concluded that the test must have been biased. If true, this is simply not discrimination. Lets hope the Supreme Court gets it right!