A Brief History Of: Affirmative Action

Jessica Hill / AP

Frank Ricci, left, lead plaintiff in the the "New Haven 20" firefighter reverse discrimination case speaks to the media outside of Federal Court in New Haven, Conn., Monday June 29, 2009.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that new haven, Conn., violated 20 white and Hispanic firefighters' rights by scrapping a promotions test that few black candidates passed leaves city officials in a bind. Lose the test and you punish those who aced it. Keep it and you risk leaving intact a lack of diversity at the fire department's senior levels.

The case, Ricci v. DeStefano, is renewing debate over affirmative action, not least because it reverses a judgment signed off on by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. But the controversy over such programs goes back decades. It was President Lyndon Johnson who...

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