Saturday, June 27, 2009

Frank Ricci, Discrimination, Exams, and the Law--Why the New Haven Firefighter Case Matters

"Neal and Bogan's conception of merit is different from Frank Ricci's. It's easy to see why. Ever since the test results came out, the black Firebirds and the white plaintiffs have had opposing interests. Stretching back further in time, back over the decades, the two groups also see the history of the department through a different lens. For Frank Ricci, the past is a story of ethnic heritage and family pride. For Mike Neal and Erika Bogan, it's a story about breaking the lock on hiring that kept their people out."

--Part 5, of Slate's feature on the Frank Ricci promotion controversy in New Haven, CT

Slate has a great feature exploring the history, context, and issues of legal jurisprudence in the New Haven fire department promotion/exam controversy. A decision in the Ricci v. DeStafano case will likely be handed down by the Supreme Court next week and this series is an excellent and balanced primer--one that goes beyond the reactionary, Jim Crow 2.0, White male grievance narrative offered by the Right or the overly simplistic reading of the case offered by many "progressives".

As a native of New Haven, I can second the nuance captured in the series regarding the tensions between firefighters from the lily white suburbs and those black and Latino firefighters from (by comparison, the much more integrated) city of New Haven. I have always argued that municipal jobs should be filled by folks from that community--be they cops, firefighters, or the like--but that is a conversation for another time.

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