Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ricci V. DeStefano

I'll be honest, i've been having a difficult time trying to figure out how I felt about this case, and more so now that I've heard the verdict.

The premise was this:

Now, on the one hand... we have these firefighters (who just so happen to be white, plus one Hispanic) who worked hard and studied hard and deserve to get a promotion (at least, from what I understand there was no foul play involved.) On the other hand, there continues to be a need for affirmative action, seeing as how no matter what, discrimination continues to be a very real thing, especially against black minorities. It's a pretty complicated case. I first heard about it in my government class (thanks, Dr. Matson!) Not allowing the white firefighters and the hispanic firefighter their promotions could be seen as a form of reverse racism/discrimination (and actually, that is how the courts ruled):

Upon first glance, it makes sense. Let's play the non-race game. When you see the results of the promotion exam, you just get a handful of men who passed an exam. Fair and square, right? Why shouldn't they get promoted? Right? Wrong.

One has to consider the possible outside circumstances surrounding this exam. The fact is, that while we would LIKE to play the "non-race" game, racism and a need to place people in categories based on "race" continues to be the reality. So we have to think about a few things.

For one, who wrote this exam? How was it created? Was there anything in the exam to indicate that it might be skewed to be easier for these white firefighters? Then you have to think about the firefighters themselves. On a whole, did the white firefighters have more time to study? Were they more well off economically? Did the black firefighters have more on their plate, giving them an uneven chance at having more time to study? Have these black firefighters experienced this kind of situation while working as firefighters in the past? Have they been given less educational opportunities because of their skin color giving them less of an edge on studying and taking the exam?

We know that no matter what, the white firefighters as a whole have had more privilege in their lives simply because they are white. They just haven't experience the world in the same way. But maybe some of them have had difficult lives too. Or maybe they just studied harder. Or maybe not. Honestly, none of it can change the outcome of the case. However, there is something to think about:

And that's the real kicker. What could this mean for the future of the New Haven Fire Fighters, and what could it mean for similar cases in the future? I think in the end, I would scrap the exam as well. It's too soon to try to accuse people of reverse discrimination where there's been a history of discrimination. It's just too soon to pretend that race doesn't matter in the eyes of many.

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