Ricci and the future of race in America
We're witnessing the beginning of the end of affirmative action.
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In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito documented in elaborate detail the extent of the political shenanigans that were involved in the decertification of the test results.Skip to next paragraph
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Such action, the court concluded, was "disparate treatment," not disparate impact. Disparate treatment is another way of saying that the city directly discriminated against Ricci and the other high-scoring firefighters. This is the primary result of the Ricci case.
Because the court did not resolve the disparate-impact provision, the legal reach and effect of the Ricci case will be quite limited, contrary to media and other reports that suggest a major effect. Justice Antonin Scalia highlighted this fact and specifically noted in a concurring opinion that at some point the court must confront the constitutional conflict that exists between disparate-impact provisions and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Clearly, the Ricci decision represents somewhat of a legal milestone. With this decision, the court undoes much of the damage that it has done for more than three decades through a series of decisions that violate the simple command of the 1964 Civil Rights Act: The government should not discriminate on the basis of race in employment hiring and promotion.
But the more important milestone is cultural. The cultural significance of Ricci lies in the fact that it will promote a new era of awareness that the Civil Rights Act applies to white males as much as it applies to black people and women.
Once the American people and all public institutions accept the reality that civil rights are not just for black people, our nation will be well on its way to reaching that point at which race, as President John F. Kennedy envisioned, "has no place in American life or law."
When viewed in the context of other public events, such as the action of the Arizona Legislature to place an initiative on the 2010 Statewide Ballot to end race and ethnic preferences, and a host of public-opinion polls that confirm overwhelming public opposition to race preferences, the Ricci decision suggests that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of affirmative action preferences.
Ward Connerly is president of the American Civil Rights Coalition, a former regent of the University of California, and author of a newly released memoir, "Lessons From My Uncle James: Beyond Skin Color to the Content of Our Character."