BY DERRYCK GREEN, Project 21
Attorney General Eric Holder and his band of merry litigators at the U.S. Department of Justice have sued Jacksonville, Florida over its fire department’s promotion testing process. The Obama Administration contends that it discriminates against blacks.
Less than a week later, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Jacksonville’s firefighters union for the same reason because the union has input on the promotion process.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez said the Justice Department is suing because the Jacksonville test unfairly discriminates against black firemen because the tests “measure only a slice” of actual job duties and “stand in the way of qualified African-Americans” because they “pass the examination at significantly lower rates” compared to white counterparts.
The lawsuit alleges that even when blacks do pass, their scores are significantly lower. This prevents them from being promoted because the department “selects candidates for promotion in descending rank-order based primarily upon each candidate’s written examination score and African-American candidates score significantly lower than whites.”
In order that “victims of such practices are made whole,” the Obama Administration wants retroactive compensation and seniority as well as offers of promotion for those black firemen affected by the Jacksonville fire department’s “discrimination.”
In 2009, Dayton, Ohio officials settled a similar Justice Department claim over that city’s written examinations for potential policemen and requirements for potential firemen. Bean-counting was also used to allege racial discrimination through disparate treatment.
That settlement resulted in Dayton essentially having to lower its standards of qualification for black applicants to both their fire and police departments. The city also had to hire more blacks in order to achieve fair representation of blacks proportional to their representation of the community at large.
Let this sink in for a moment. The Jacksonville tests — like the one in Dayton — are considered discriminatory simply because blacks can’t pass them with the same efficiency as their white counterparts. Even if some of the content on these tests aren’t “job-related,” people continue to pass them.
That doesn’t necessarily make the tests discriminatory against blacks. After all, blacks do pass them. What it does mean, unfortunately, is that blacks apparently aren’t as prepared for the exams as their peers — regardless of skin color.
If blacks — or anyone for that matter — fail to pass the necessary tests or fulfill the necessary requirements, they shouldn’t be promoted. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Yet the Justice Department and EEOC are suing to lower the standards for black firefighters so lesser-qualified black candidates can get promotions and raises at the expense of their higher-achieving peers.
What Eric Holder and his minions are doing is forcing quotas on cities such as Jacksonville and Dayton and warning others to fall in line in the press. Continued support for affirmative action, however, implies that blacks are still not equal with whites because it demands lower standards for blacks.
Affirmative action robs us of the opportunity to compete and demonstrate that we possess the talents and capabilities to be regarded on equal footing with our peers irrespective of color.
While there are areas in which blacks do lag behind their peers, we will never be able to effectively close these gaps until the safety net of affirmative action is taken away and people can succeed and fail on their own merits.
This is precisely why affirmative action is wrong. Blacks suffer when standards are lowered. Affirmative action is an acknowledgement and admittance that blacks are still second-class citizens, unable to achieve success without intervention by whites, government or the combination of both. This is dehumanizing.
I look forward to the day that black accomplishment isn’t stained with affirmative action.
Derryck Green, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, received a M.A. in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University.