Which is it? Discrimination or a Bunch of Crybabies?

This in from the New York Times.  There’s a discrimination lawsuit that’s been filed by a black firefighters group in New York City claiming that the differences in the passing rates between white and minority candidates is prima facie evidence of racial bias in the test.   You may recall that the supreme court recently ruled in a reverse discrimination case in  favor of white firefighters in Connecticut saying that they were unfairly denied promotion due to their race.  The main issue in this case was the fact the the test results were thrown out due to fear of a lawsuit.

 Standardized tests are a way of life in many professions and the key is learning how to pass the test.  To a large extent, test taking techniques are something that’s learned over time as one moves through the education system.  Of course, if the education system in your community is significantly deficient, those skills aren’t acquired and that can’t even be turned around by exam prep or coaching couses.  Therein lies the problem in the disparity in passing rates and that’s something that can not and should not be addressed by discrimination lawsuits.  It’s patently unfair and absurd to overturn the results of an exam based on the presumption of discrimination just because not enough blacks and hispanics passed the test.

 If there’s a desire for increased diversity among firefighters or any other profession, then the issues around disparity in education must be resolved first and that can’t be resolved until there’s a sea change in the attitudes  that African-Americans and Hispanics have about getting an education.  In other words, removing this disparity starts not with marching, protesting or suing someone–it starts with a collective change in mind about what we want education to do for us.  Once we do that, then we’re positioned to address the problem of disparity in education and a whole host of contributing factors that stifle achievement.

 The failure to do that will continue leaving us with lawsuits like this which do nothing other than promote the image of a bunch of unprepared crybabies wailing about discrimination because we can’t pass a stupid test.  That’s not the position that anyone wants to be in if they want respect and that’s the bottom line.  If you want respect, you must meet the accepted standard that’s been established.  If you want to be viewed as a crybaby, file lawsuits to throw out test results when you don’t like the results.

August 27, 2009

Mayor Testifies He Does Not Recall Report on Firefighter Exam Result Differences

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg testified in a discrimination lawsuit on Wednesday that he did not recall receiving a report more than six years ago warning him about sharp differences in the passing rates between white and minority candidates for firefighter jobs, lawyers for a black firefighters’ association said.

Mr. Bloomberg gave a three-hour deposition in connection with a federal lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in 2007. The suit was prompted by complaints made by the Vulcan Society, a fraternal group for black firefighters, and several individual firefighter applicants.

In July, a Federal District Court judge in Brooklyn, Nicholas G. Garaufis, ruled that entrance examinations for the Fire Department in 1999 and 2002 discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants. A set of related claims against the mayor and other city officials is still being heard.

Under questioning on Wednesday, Mr. Bloomberg acknowledged that his signature appeared on a letter of response to the report, from the city’s Equal Employment Practices Commission, the lawyers said. But he said he did not recall carrying out any of the report’s recommendations, including one that asked the Fire Department to assess the adverse effects of the 1999 entrance exam. Mr. Bloomberg also said he had not read Judge Garaufis’s ruling.

Speaking after the deposition, Richard Levy, a lawyer for the Vulcan Society, said: “The mayor has very little memory of anything that seems to have happened here. We’ve presented documents to him showing that the proportion of blacks in the Fire Department, which is now 3.14 percent as of May 2009, is lower than the proportion that was in the Fire Department in the 1990s.”

“He dismissed that as minor differences — unimportant — at the same time that he said that he and the city have a great interest in expanding diversity,” Mr. Levy said.

A spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department, Kate O’Brien Ahlers, said, “The deposition relates to ongoing litigation, and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment.”

City officials have said that they have made noticeable strides in diversifying the Fire Department, pointing out that new outreach efforts have increased the number of minority applicants who took and passed the firefighter exams. Those efforts have tripled the number of African-Americans and doubled the number of Hispanics who took a new test in 2007, officials said, adding that one-third of the most recent class of probationary firefighters are minorities.

The deposition was ordered by Judge Garaufis in response to comments Mr. Bloomberg made during confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor in July.

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of her nomination to the Supreme Court, Mr. Bloomberg said he disagreed with her ruling in a case involving New Haven firefighters. He then talked in some detail about fighting a lawsuit that accused New York City of using discriminatory tests to screen candidates for the Fire Department.

Less than a week after the hearing, Judge Garaufis ruled that the tests discriminated against black and Hispanic candidates.

Then in August, saying the mayor’s comments in Washington suggested “his direct involvement in the events at issue in the case,” the judge reversed a magistrate judge’s ruling and said Mr. Bloomberg should be compelled to give a deposition.

It was given in a conference room in the city’s Law Department, in Lower Manhattan. Mr. Bloomberg arrived a few minutes early, and apparently left through a side door, avoiding reporters.

The mayor testified that to help him determine whether the screening tests had been discriminatory, he had consulted fire officials, firefighters and trainees, according to a person who heard the deposition. The mayor did not mention consulting any experts outside the Fire Department, said the person, who insisted on anonymity, saying it was inappropriate to discuss ongoing litigation.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: