Disparate Impact, aka “disparate treatment,” is a common term in employment law. It figured into yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Ricci v. deStefano) regarding Connecticut firefighters who charged the city of New Haven violated civil-rights law when it threw out promotional exam results because more whites than blacks or Hispanics had passed the tests.
Disparate impact basically means that a certain requirement for a job — possessing a high school diploma, for example — may have a more deleterious effect on minorities than whites by disqualifying greater percentages of them. But the intent of the employer was not to discriminate. Maybe the job really does require some reading comprehension and the ability to work with numbers, for instance, and hiring people without those skills would be setting them up for failure.
The greater percentage of minorities who do not fare as well on written tests may have a lot to do with inadequate K-12 education in minority communities, greater dropout rates among blacks and hispanics than whites, a higher incidence of teen pregnancy, and chaotic family situations not conducive to studying and absent the long-term stability needed to ensure a student shows up for class consistently.
Indeed, the deplorable state of so many urban schools — drugs, gangs, and utter chaos — may well be a major disincentive to sticking it out and earning a diploma.
But if bad schools, bad parenting, and corrupt, inept school boards (as in Detroit) are the problems that contribute to disparate impact, then these problems need to be addressed. The testing process ought not be dumbed down or unfairly rigged to benefit minorities.
So bravo to the Supreme Court for overturning a Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in which nominee Sonia Sotomayor was one of a three-judge panel that ruled unanimously for the minority firefighters. It should be noted that even the four justices voting against reversing the lower court ruling acknowledged they had reservations about the appeals court’s handling of the case.
One of the untenable positions liberal Democrats attempt to defend time and again is affirmative action that appears to be based primarily on skin color. “Diversity” is often a misnomer. How about some ideological diversity in academia. Hint: Don’t hold your breath.
Throwing out test results that help determine firefighter candidates’ knowledge, qualifications and level of experience, just for the sake of getting a few more darker-skinned candidates on the staff, is pure folly.
In college admissions, as we’ve seen at the University of Michigan time and again, middle-class or wealthy blacks have been admitted over whites with higher test scores, just to appease the diversity gods.
It should be obvious that those black students are intelligent and hard working, and typically come from stable, supportive families not lacking in resources. They would go to college somewhere if it weren’t U-M. So it’s not like the university’s diversity policy is opening new doors to minorities who otherwise would be denied opportunity. But then again, that’s rational and logical. It means nothing to those whose ideology is based on guilt, feelings, idealism, and good intentions.
Identity politics flies in the face of Martin Luther King’s plea that we judge people by the content of their character (and by extension, their qualifications/experience/intelligence/attitude/work ethic) rather than the color of their skin.
Good to know there are at least five U.S. Supreme Court justices who apparently think so.