Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of 19 white fire fighters and one Latino fire fighter in their lawsuit against the city of New Haven Connecticut. The case stems from a 2004 lawsuit filed by white firefighters who passed an exam for a job promotion only to have the test results thrown out because no African-American candidate received a high enough score to also be considered for promotion.
City officials said they wanted to add diversity to the management ranks within the fire department. But when no blacks and only two Hispanic applicants qualified for consideration for the management jobs, the city decided to scrap the entire test. So the white firefighters sued charging that the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against them solely because they were not black—the court agreed.
While the Supreme Court’s ruling might help fuel conservatives´ opposition to supreme court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (as today's decision in Ricci v. DeStefano ruled against an earlier ruling Sotomayor upheld as an appellate judge) I fear this case will have a wide-ranging negative impact on anti-discrimination employment—especially in Government which has traditionally been a bastion for minority economic development. Think about the “good jobs” of the past: teachers, postal workers, city workers, county workers, and Federal workers. The only equal for minorities were factories and the mills. Now look at today, those factory and mill jobs have all but dried up, making Government employment all the more important for minority economic parity. If affirmative action programs are abandoned and Government goes the way of cooperate America, fewer minorities will be hired or promoted to high-level Government positions—regardless of how well they do on some “objective” test or process. How could I say this? More on why later, but first, some background.
The first reverse discrimination law suit reached the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970s when a white student named Allan Bakke accused the University of California medical school of twice denying him admission because he was white. In their decision, the Supreme Court ruled that strict racial quotas were unconstitutional but affirmative action was not. In the years to follow, the cases continued to mount, especially as minorities and women began to get climb the economic ladder.
In April of this year in South Carolina, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued a historically black college on behalf of three white faculty members who complained they were forced from or denied jobs because of their race.
Simultaneously, federal officials reached a settlement agreement with Benedict College paying $55,000 to each instructor, including an art teacher who said she was denied promotion in favor of a black professor.
And there have been other Governmental cases:
Michael C. Ryan v. Norman Y. Mineta (FAA). On October 6, 2004 -- after nine years of litigation and hearings, Federal Judge John W. Bissell found that the FAA had, in fact, illegally discriminated against white employee Ryan via the agency's zealous racial-quota hiring and promotion policies.
Larry Price v. HUD. The HUD St. Louis office denied promotions to Larry Price because he is white and male. Mr. Price won in Jan. 2002.
Joseph Ray Terry vs. EEOC. EEOC found guilty of reverse discrimination! White EEOC employee wins lawsuit.
Diersen vs. U.S. GAO. U.S. General Accounting Office discriminates against its older employees, especially those who are white and male! Lawsuit pending for discrimination and retaliation. Agency downsizing disproportionately affects older, white males. (UPDATED 12/17/04)
IRS found guilty of reverse discrimination and retaliation against employees! (Updated 04/22/99)
FAA -- Air agency rejects highly qualified, disabled, white veteran DeWayne Currier. FAA says air safety is less Important than skin color. (Updated 12/30/98)
INS Fires Disabled Jewish Woman. In Caryl Leventhal v. Janet Reno; Caryl B. Leventhal worked for the Immigration and Naturalization service (INS). Caryl is white, she is Jewish, and she has multiple sclerosis. Black INS employees insulted and discriminated against Ms. Leventhal for her race, religion, and medical condition.
Yet, there were no major rulings to Governmental affirmative action programs—until today. Why is this so important? I would dare to say that the Government (County, State, and Federal) is by far the principle provider of higher paying jobs and advancement opportunities for minorities. According to the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Government’s rate of employment of all minorities ranged between 29 percent in 2001 to 32 percent in 2006—far above minority population levels. If these opportunities are lost due to a “fairness issue,” it could set minorities back 100 years. Many conservatives argue to the contrary.
Whites, especially white males, say that affirmation action is no longer necessary and that instead of leveling the playing field for minorities, it unfairly punishes whites. Let’s examine this argument. First, I challenge the idea that affirmative action unfairly punishes whites and does not level the playing field. I would agree if it weren’t for one simple fact: the “old boy” network and “white privilege” still exists. Are whites being unfairly punished? Some…maybe. The majority of CEO’s are white, the majority of business owners are white. Time and time again studies have revealed that whites receive better treatment from everything to loans to catching a cab. So, while some whites may not get the job they think they deserve, this is not the norm for them—for minorities, it is.
And here’s something to think about. Could it be that the election of the nations first African American President will only strengthen the dismantling of affirmative action? My answer, could be. It’s exactly because you now have an African American President and Republican Party Chairman—both firsts the history of this nation. You also have a good number of African American professionals. Because of this, some would argue that affirmative action is obsolete. You also have a President who’s big a advocate of personal responsibility and has called loudly for the same saying Government can not and should not do it all. How will he be balance these proclamations with the needs of minorities in a still racially divided America? and still be the President for all the people?