The Ricci attitude
...We do people no favor when we accept less than their best efforts. If we do accept less than the best, the service that we will get will be less than the best and in the case of firefighters that could lead to loss of lives. If we demand the best of everyone, it will lead to higher achievement regardless of race.
Commentaries on the case almost universally stress that the victors were "white" firefighters, not those who scored highest on the race-neutral test. But skin color should never have been at issue. New Haven went to great lengths to ensure that the test for promotion to captain would not be racially biased. The city was vexed in explaining the outcome, overlooking the obvious conclusion that those who were implicitly promised promotions based on race did not feel the need to compete.
Contrast this attitude to that of lead plaintiff Frank Ricci, who is dyslexic and spent thousands of dollars to have test-preparation materials read on tape and studied for months. If the people who had scored poorly on the test had put that much effort into preparation, perhaps they would have done better. Instead, they were going to be given a do-over because they chose not to try.
The issue should not be who is the most racially acceptable candidate for promotion but who is best for the job. Public safety should not be held hostage to race norming. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent - that in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, "Congress endeavored to promote equal opportunity in fact, and not simply in form" - is unconvincing. She would require racially balanced outcomes in every single test regardless of the steps taken to ensure equal opportunity and regardless of the actual performance of the people taking it.