THE RICCI RULING.

The opinion released by the court in the Ricci case is 93 pages long, so it's going to take me a while to wade through it. The court ruled along ideological lines, 5-4 in favor of the white firefighters who were alleging racial discrimination. Having read the introduction however, I can already take a good guess at what the lede will be, particularly for those opposed to Sonia Sotomayor's nomination:

All the evidence demonstrates that the City rejected the test results because the higher scoring candidates were white. Without some other justification, this express, race-based decision-making is prohibited.

The facts of the Ricci case are this: The city threw out a series of tests under the results of which several white and Hispanic firefighters would have been promoted, because there was a serious racial disparity in the results. The city feared being sued for discrimination, so it threw the tests out.

Clearly, this is a pretty ham-handed way of following affirmative action laws. But the above sentence from the Court oversimplifies. The city didn't throw the tests out because it didn't want any white firefighters, or because it believes whites aren't smart enough to be firefighters, or because whites are inherently unskilled and therefore can't be firefighters. The city didn't throw the tests out because they contradicted long-held beliefs about the "racial characteristics" of whites. The city threw the test results out because it feared getting sued for discriminating against others who didn't fare well on the test. Saying that the city simply "threw out the test results because the higher scoring candidates were white" is not exactly correct.

There's probably more like this in the rest of the opinion, but those opposed to Sotomayor's nomination partially on the grounds that minorities have all the rights these days already have plenty to work with.

-- A. Serwer

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