The Fire Department of New York is one of the best in the world. Funnily enough, more whites were passing the admissions test than were blacks and Hispanics. A lot more. Why do you suppose that was? It didn’t matter to the Justice Department, which sued the FDNY, alleging that the fact that there was “disparate impact” on the test was sufficient evidence to condemn the test as racially discriminatory. A federal judge agreed, calling the FDNY a “stubborn bastion of white male privilege,” and mandating quota hiring. So the FDNY rewrote the test. Results are in:
Blacks and Hispanics scored significantly better on the newly revamped FDNY exam, a shift that could lead to firefighter jobs for a many as 42% of the minority-group test-takers, city officials revealed Tuesday.
The would-be minority-group firefighters far outscored those who sat for the previous three exams — the results of which were deemed discriminatory and tossed out by a judge.
Bravest hopefuls who nail a grade of 97 or higher are considered likely to be hired by the FDNY over the next four years.
Nearly half — 42.3% — of minority-group members who took the test cleared that hurdle, officials said.
That’s much higher than top-scoring minorities who took the 1999 exam (14%), the 2002 exam (16%) and the 2007 exam (33%).
FDNY Battalion Chief Paul Mannix, an outspoken critic of the judge’s decision who believes the original lawsuit was bogus, said he still has questions about how the experts scored the exam.
“On the face of it, I have no confidence in the test and the list that will come of it,” Mannix said.
In a 2010 piece about the challenges minorities face getting hired at the FDNY, the liberal Village Voice wrote:
It’s hard to see any racial discrimination in the individual questions from past exams that the Voice was able to obtain. But that doesn’t change the fact that minority groups have fared worse in them.
The court even has a legal term for it: “disparate impact.”
And the thing is, it’s not against the law for a hiring test to create disparate impact, as long as that test evaluates the vital skills necessary for job performance. But the FDNY’s critics charge that its exams don’t really determine who will or will not turn out to be a good firefighter.
So maybe the FDNY’s test was bad, but does that make it racist? From what the Voice reports, it seems to be only if you consider the outcome racist, whatever the intention. That is, only if you believe in the doctrine of disparate impact. Was the exam a flawed exam that tested candidates on things that weren’t relevant to firefighting? Possibly, in which case this problem needed addressing. But if even the Voice can’t find anything racially biased in the questions it asked, what is the rational moral basis for a civil rights lawsuit?
This is why we need a Republican president’s appointee running the Justice Department, right? Think again: as Steve Sailer points out, the initial lawsuit was filed in 2007 by the Bush Justice Department. Because hey, if there’s one job you don’t want people hired for on the apparent merits, it’s firefighting.