Obama's affirmative action controversy

Tom Jackson
Mar 23, 2010

President Barack Obama's pick of "wise Latina" Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court has focused attention on a controversial affirmative action case now before the court, Ricci d. DeStefano, in which the city of New Haven, Conn., tossed out results of a written exam for firefighters after all of the black firefighters taking the test failed to make the cut.

The city's decision generated a lawsuit from firefighters who had passed the test. A judge upheld the city's decision, and a panel that included Sotomayor upheld that judge's ruling. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule soon.

The Wall Street Journal has a story explaining the case here.

I've read many blog entries and articles about the case on the Internet. Here is one each of the best, on opposite sides of the argument.

Hilzoy argues at Washington Monthly that Sotomayor and her colleagues simply followed established law, as judges are supposed to do. "Many of the same people who are outraged by the decision also criticize Judge Sotomayor on the grounds that she will substitute her personal preferences for the requirements of the law as written," Hilzoy notes.

At Real Clear Politics, David Paul Kuhn argues that the obvious unfairness in how the white firefighters were treated raises issues that are becoming difficult to ignore. "It is still acceptable for society to discriminate against white males and to speak derisively of them. At what point will this change?"