This essay weighs the merits of the ascendant interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment: a colorblind reading of equality that received a boost in the Court’s Ricci v. DeStefano decision of 2009. In Ricci, the Court concluded that the City of New Haven had acted illegally when it scrapped a promotion exam for firefighters on which whites had vastly outperformed black and Hispanic candidates. The article opens by surveying the major twists and turns of the Supreme Court’s view of racial classifications since the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868. It updates that history through an analysis of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Ricci and Justice Ginsburg’s forceful dissent. The essay then explores three possible reasons to push for a colorblind conception of racial equality. While two of these arguments are fatally weak, I argue, one is instructive. Colorblindness may be a poor reading of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection guarantee, but overt color-consciousness has its costs as well. I conclude that “color-wariness,” for lack of a better term, may be the optimal strategy for policymakers and government officials.
- Ricci v. DeStefano,
- equal protection,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/steven_mazie/1/