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Friday, January 22, 2010

Disparate impact

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis has ordered that New York City must offer firefighting jobs to 293 black and Hispanic applicants. The judge has also said that the city must pay millions of dollars to black and Hispanic applicants who took the test, but who passed the test at a lower rate than white applicants.

These rulings are intended to remedy tests that were administered from 1999 to 2002 -- the height of the Jim Crow era. And in New York City -- that hotbed of Klan activity.

Garaufis said that the city must now prove that the current test does not discriminate.

The problem is, all tests which measure mental ability discriminate. They discriminate against people who are less intelligent. In order to devise a test on which a group with an average IQ of 85 would do just as well as a group with an average IQ of 100, it would have to be dumbed down to the point of meaninglessness.

We can now expect a less efficient fire department. Perhaps the firemen won't react quite as quickly when called to battle a five alarm blaze. Maybe they'll try to connect the wrong size hoses to the hydrant. They may not maintain their equipment as well. Perhaps they'll be stymied trying to figure out how to raise the truck's ladders. All these outcomes are more likely when you lower the intelligence level required to become a fireman.

Disparate impact is one of the most pernicious concepts in American law. The term was first used in the landmark Griggs vs. Duke Power case of 1971, in which the Supreme Court, under Warren Burger, ruled that if an employment test results in less than 80% as many minorities per capita being hired as whites, then it is discriminatory.

The great fallacy underlying this ruling is that all races and ethnic groups have equal abilities at all things. This is simply not true, as every legitimate IQ test ever devised shows. Of course, any public figure who dares breathe word of this would immediately lose his job. So there is a deathly silence on the issue, and everyone must continue to pretend that biological differences are "pseudoscience."

But as long as we're going to persist in this fiction, I have several suggestions for other suits.

Asian-Americans should bring a suit against the NBA, since the NBA doesn't have a single Asian-American player in the league. (Yao Ming doesn't count, since he's Asian-Asian.) Obviously, judging a basketball player by his height, jumping ability, quickness, shooting ability, and blocking prowess results is racist.

Modeling agencies obviously discriminate against ugly people. Since ugliness is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps just fat people should sue the agencies. Why should employment in this potentially lucrative field be dictated by a genetic accident like good bone structure or leanness?

As of now women are not allowed into combat roles in the armed services, "G.I. Jane" notwithstanding. Who says women can't fight as well as men? The only question here is, who should bring suit, the women for not being allowed in combat, or the men for being put in more dangerous positions?

Silly? Of course. But really, no more so than the edict that Garaufis handed down.

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