On Monday, June 29th, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Ricci v DeStafano - a case where 19 white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter were denied promotions because no black firefighters qualified for an immediate promotion. After being rejected a few of times in appeals court, New Haven firefighters might finally get the justice they've been fighting for through the Supreme Court. Ricci v DeStefano may have the potential not only to revamp hiring practices across the nation, but to roll back affirmative action as well.
One of the plaintiffs, Hispanic Firefighter Ben Vargas, knows exactly what sacrifices are involved in fighting for the right to be promoted on the basis of merit, not skin color. Four years ago, Ben Vargas was ambushed in a local restaurant bathroom and beaten unconscious. Vargas believed the event ensued over his direct involvement in Ricci v DeStefano - a belief that many firefighters at New Haven commonly share. During the event, several black firefighters were in the restaurant, including Gary Tinney.
Gary Tinney is one of the of the leaders of the New Haven Firebirds - a black firefighter organization closely involved in getting the New Haven promotional exams tossed out. Since the New Haven Firebirds supported the decision of New Haven to discard the promotional exams, racial tensions between firefighters on the New Haven Fire Department has been intensely charged. At the apex of the strife, Gary Tinney tried to file a lawsuit against his own union for supporting Ben Vargas and 19 other firefighters in the Ricci v DeStefano lawsuit.
On a personal note, I wish the best of luck to Hispanic firefighter Ben Vargas and the 19 other firefighters suing New Haven for an opportunity to get the promotions that were unjustly withheld from them. Hopefully, the U.S. Supreme Court moves beyond partisan politics and rules in favor of Ricci v DeStefano.