This week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a group of white firefighters in New Haven CT whose promotion exam was thrown out by the city for fear of litigation because the results yielded no qualified black candidates. The Court ruled that the fear of litigation is not enough evidence to show racial discrimination.
I agree, and for once find myself agreeing with the conservative wingnuts of the Court – Roberts, Scalio, Alito, and Thomas. But on the other hand this court decision really doesn’t meet the smell test when it comes to a referendum on affirmative action.
According to a recent opinion poll, 56% of the public support affirmative action for minorities while only 36% oppose it. And yet a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University cited in a June 3rd McClatchy article before the Supreme Court ruling indicated a 71% opposition to nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s appellate court decision to rule in favor of New Haven on the case, and a 56-36% support for abolishing affirmative action altogether.
Even though these polling results seem contradictory, I think they are reflective of the public’s acknowledgment that we still have a race problem but no easy way to solve it. The problem is not whether THE test is biased. The problem is that A test is biased.
Is a written test the best way of determining who is the most qualified firefighter? Or for that matter is a written test the best way of determining the most qualified candidates for any job?
We need to stop evaluating affirmative action based on test results, even though it is tempting to do so because of the quantitative nature of tests. Otherwise there are a few million Asian Americans in this country who deserve a promotion.
For more information, check out this article in the New York Times.
Ethnicmajority Affirmative Action page.