As has been chronicled at length here at CFIF, one of the hallmarks of Eric Holder’s Justice Department has been its insistence on injecting race into the public square as often as possible. And one of the areas where this has played out in department policy has been in the DOJ’s repeated threats to crack down on police and fire forces for what it claims are racially discriminatory employment practices.
In 2009, for example, the New Haven, Connecticut, Fire Department threw out the results of a standardized test aimed at measuring candidates’ suitability for promotion when the number of African-American candidates who passed was deemed insufficiently high. The department was motivated in part by fear of a Justice Department lawsuit — a fear that proved to be well-founded when the DOJ filed suit against the state of New Jersey the following year because white test-takers had a higher passage rate (89 percent) than black (73 percent) or Hispanic (77 percent) candidates in an exam for police promotions.
Neither of these cases featured allegations that the tests or the promotion processes were inherently racist. Rather, they simply rested on the DOJ’s notion that unequal outcomes are inherently unjust; that the fact of disparate results was sufficient, in and of itself, to reveal systemic injustice.
So far, the results of DOJ pressure have been mixed. The New Haven firefighters whose successful test results were thrown out took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, where the justices ruled in their favor, 5-4. In New Jersey, however, the DOJ’s bullying tactics won the day, with the state agreeing to revise the exam and issue back pay to minority officers (many of whom resented the feds’ “help”).
Yet that inconsistent track record isn’t keeping the department from going at it again. This time they’re taking the show to Jacksonville, Florida. Per a DOJ release from yesterday:
The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville, Fla., alleging that the city is engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against African-Americans in its fire and rescue department in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit challenges the fire department’s use of written examinations for the promotion of firefighters to four ranks – Lieutenant, Captain, and District Chief, all in the suppression line, and Engineer…
The United States’ complaint alleges that the examinations impact African-American candidates in two ways. First, African-American candidates for promotion to the four positions pass the examinations at significantly lower rates than white candidates. Second, even those African-Americans who pass the examinations are rarely promoted because the fire 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.
Notice that there’s nothing in there that any fair observer could characterize as bias. Rather, the complaint is, in essence, that the Jacksonville Fire Department is too objective.
As the police officers in New Jersey noted in the piece linked above, even a successful outcome for the DOJ will not have the effect of helping out minority officers, whose qualifications will now be called into question on the basis of de facto affirmative action.
If the feds really wanted to help out, they would examine the underlying causes of why the tests exhibit racial disparities in the first place. Could it be that America’s public schools — rotting as the result of the influence of teachers unions — have disproportionately failed minority communities? Could it be that the social pathologies subsidized in perpetuity by the welfare state have thwarted upward mobility in poor neighborhoods?
Answering those questions, of course, would require some real soul-searching. And it might also require giving up the notion that good intent is sufficient to make Democrats the perpetual guardians of America’s minority communities, no matter what kind of havoc their policies wreak in reality. But that’s a level of introspection we shouldn’t expect from this Administration. In Eric Holder’s DOJ, it’s easier to just file a lawsuit and assume that the other guy’s a racist.