Saturday, July 18, 2009

Forward Progress on ‘Reverse’ Discrimination

First of all, I detest the use of the term ‘reverse discrimination’.

Why is it that, when a non-white, gay or female believes that they were treated unfairly, it is discrimination?

But, when a Caucasian male believes the same, it is reverse discrimination?

If we are all created equal and I believe that we are, then how can discrimination be ‘different’ for whites?

Where professional, performance-based standards are involved, then shouldn’t the playing field be level for everyone? That is to say that, in the fire service, the multiple tasks required to safely perform the job and their resulting consequences, good and bad are no different for ANYONE. You must force doors, carry hose, rescue people twice your size, scale ladders, wear 40 pounds of gear and an encyclopedia of other tasks; not to mention getting each other out of harm’s way.

I sit here befuddled that there hasn’t been more discussion and especially since it has been said the “historically, it has been the common practice of the fire service to discriminate”!

Ricci v Destefano was not going to derail Sotomayor’s confirmation for U.S. Supreme Court justice, but it should serve as a reminder to cities who still believe that hiring and promoting to achieve diversity goals by denying the rights of others is neither safe nor smart.

There should only be ONE pool of candidates, regardless of race, color, gender or religion. Hiring and promotions should go to the most qualified…period.

Before Firefighter Frank Ricci testified at Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing, efforts were made to discredit and lionize him, because this wasn’t Ricci’s first rodeo.

In 1995, Ricci sued the City of New Haven, CT for not hiring him, claiming that he wasn’t hired because he told them that he had dyslexia. The suit was settled in 1997 when he was hired by New Haven.

In 1998, Ricci filed an appeal to his firing from Middletown’s South Fire District, claiming that it was in retaliation for his investigation of a very controversial fire.

In some circles, Ricci was being accused of ‘faking’ his dyslexia to gain advantage.

So, why was Ricci being singled out and attacked when Michael Blatchley, Greg Boivin, Gary Carbone, Michael Christoforo, Ryan Divito, Steven Durand, William Gambardella, Brian Jooss, James Kottage, Matthew Marcarelli, Thomas J. Michaels, Sean Patton, Christopher Parker, Edward Riordan, Kevin Roxbee, Timothy Scanlon, Benjamin Vargas, John Vendetto and Mark Vendetto were all parties to the Destefano and City of New Haven lawsuit?

Because, if one didn’t take the time to read the record, you could erroneously conclude that he was an opportunist.

I think that his personal battles embody the temperament needed to be a firefighter.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that Frank Ricci is the “Everyman” of the fire service.

He didn’t use his disability (dyslexia) to create an advantage; he succeeded in spite of it.

And though much was made of it by those on the left (according to Ricci), I believe that Ricci was raised just like you and I were. I was taught to always fight for what I believed in and if I believed that I was right let nothing change my mind. That’s not to say that it didn’t get me into some trouble from time to time, but I still hold true to that belief to this day.

Frank Ricci prevailed each time someone challenged his rights and that is exactly how the justice system is supposed to work.

What is troublesome is that we have a U.S. Supreme Court nominee who holds that only minorities can be discriminated against and that somehow, it should provide for certain advantages.

I might be wrong, but I thought that the Civil Rights Act and especially Title VII was enacted to eliminate advantages and to allow the disadvantaged equal protection under the law.

Sotomayor’s stories of growing up in the Bronx are noteworthy, but far from extraordinary. It should be the center of her humility, but in no way should it serve as her perspective in matters that come before the court, because if she doesn’t know it by now, there are a lot of “Frank Riccis” out there!

I am not interested in her making history.

I am only interested in her making good decisions with regards to the law.

The fire service must continue to test to performance and resist grading “on the curve”.

Where lives depend upon having the most qualified firefighters, there is no room for social experiments.

And to those of you who are reading this and fail to see how Sotomayor may impact our fire service in the future?

Two things, in my opinion: 1) She didn’t appreciate the smack down from the Supreme Court on her decision to deny a rehearing in Ricci v Destefano and 2) She will rise up against the fire service that has “historically engaged in discrimination”.

Remember; you read it here first!

Here are some relevant links:


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1 comment:

  1. Art, I agree completely. Discrimination is discrimination, period. There is no "reverse" or other direction in discrimination. Either we hire, retain, and promote on merit, or we don't.

    Increasing numbers of organizations are using Assessment Centers for promotion, rather than just a written test. A written test is generally one dimension, but you'll see in-box exercises, tactical scenarios, discipline problem scenarios, and project assignments as part of the process. If properly designed, these are much more resistant to court challenges or administrative overturn after the fact. Good assessment centers are completely color blind, as we all should be.


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