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There is no basis, in reason or experience, to expect different ethnic groups to have identical test scores. Thomas Sowell has detailed the countless ways in which various ethnic groups have always behaved differently and had disparate outcomes in life, around the world and throughout history. Diverse ethnic groups have different attitudes and habits with regard to many aspects of life, including education. Berkeley Professor John Ogbu (1939-2003), who was black, concluded exactly that in his important work on black student achievement. Ogbu remarked that “black students did not generally work hard.” He wrote, “The amount of time and effort they invested in academic pursuit was neither adequate nor impressive.”
It is absurd to attribute bias to an employer when people of different cultures perform on tests in a statistically predictable manner. It is equally absurd to claim that the fire department “should look like the city it serves.” Bakers don’t need to look like the city they serve. Neither do dentists. The goal of perfectly proportional racial representation is morally empty and logically void. Statistically proportional representation is not necessary, let alone achievable.
Worse, the lawsuits perpetuate stereotypes about black mental ability. As one black civil rights leader recently said, lowering test scores “is a slap in the face to black people.” The heart of the civil rights movement was the belief that blacks, if given a fair chance, can succeed along with everyone else. Civil service exams give that fair chance. These lawsuits show that some people would rather expend energy and time on a lawsuit than study for a test.
The “underrepresented” students will grow up, and many will perform on adult tests just as they did as students. One response is to lower adult standards, under the same rationale used to “help” children. Dayton, Ohio lowered standards for police recruits to increase the number of black officers. Chesapeake, VA simply eliminated math requirements for police recruits. At least 24 cities and states have endured similar lawsuits since 1990.
Racial preferences are unfair to those who play by the rules, and they weaken the organizations that are forced to employ less-qualified people. Success on a level playing field engenders respect among racial groups. But blatant special preferences only lead to disdain. The firefighter suit represents everything unfair and self-defeating about racial quotas and white guilt.
Often, local governments will cave in to demands just to avoid expensive lawsuits. It’s time for localities to stand up for high standards, even if that means seeking pro bono or reduced-cost legal representation. No community should allow standards to be degraded for the sake of social engineering.
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