Project 21 New Visions

 

Deneen Borelli

Special Treatment and Sotomayor


by Deneen Borelli (bio)

In a recent 5-to-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected race-based employment practices.

In Ricci v. DeStefano, all Americans are put on equal footing regardless of race.  But some don't like this situation. 

The Ricci case revolves around a 2003 exam that was given to firefighters seeking promotion in New Haven, Connecticut.  After the tests were scored, only two Hispanics and no blacks scored high enough to qualify for promotion.

After black and Hispanic activists pushed to have the test results thrown out, the city's Civil Service Commission effectively did so by deadlocking 2-2 on the decision to certify the exam.  As a result, no firefighter received a promotion.

Because the exam results were set aside by the city for no other reason but race, 20 New Haven firefighters - one Hispanic and 19 white - sued based on the claim of reverse discrimination.

The city was granted summary judgment at the district court level, and a panel of judges that included current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor sided with the lower court.  An eight-sentence opinion called the previous ruling allowing the city to throw out the test scores based on racial grounds "thorough, thoughtful and well-reasoned." 

After all of the significant strides that have been made for equal opportunity over the years, one would think that winners and losers today would no longer be decided based on skin color.

For a good portion of the 20th century, blacks were denied equal rights when it came to housing, education, employment opportunities and access to business and school admissions.  Government mandates were rightly implemented at the time to rectify these inequalities.

But America changed.

From the White House to the worlds of sports, entertainment and corporate America, most blacks have moved on and are taking advantage of opportunities and leading successful, productive lives.

Times - and attitudes - are now different.  The petty racism of the past truly is a thing of the past.

Fortunately, the Court's ruling on the Ricci case won't allow the clock to continually be turned backward.  But based on comments made by the nominee, Sonya Sotomayor could reinvigorate racial preferences.

This disturbing possibility puts change at a crossroads.

In light of the Court's ruling in the Ricci case, Sotomayor's opinions should be closely scrutinized to determine her judicial philosophy.

Sotomayor sided with preferential treatment instead of equal opportunity in the Ricci case, yet, decisions based on race and not the law have no place in today's society.

Preferential treatment based on skin color, race, ethnicity, sex or national origin is immoral, and such characteristics should not claim superiority above the law.

Special treatment for one group of individuals at the expense of another is discriminatory for all and further incites feelings of resentment and racism.

To deny individuals an opportunity because of skin color - no matter how good the intentions are - is just plain wrong and is not a belief held by most Americans.

One can only hope the Court's ruling in Ricci - against race-based employment practices - will play a significant role in changing the hearts and minds of those who still believe preferential treatment is necessary.

As for Sotomayor, it is the duty of senators to ensure this progress is not negated by a nominee out of the mainstream.

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Deneen Borelli is a fellow for the Project 21 black leadership network.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.


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