BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Athena D. Mutua, law professor at the
University at Buffalo, today criticized the Supreme Court's reverse
discrimination ruling that determined New Haven officials acted
illegally when denying white firefighters promotions, calling it
another example of a double standard working against equality for
people of color.
"The Ricci v. DeStefano decision is very disappointing to
those of us who are committed to working for racial and social
justice in the real world of the United States," said Mutua, an
expert on racial discrimination law. "But the decision is not at
all surprising. The ideologically conservative justices who have a
slight majority on the court have for many years now been very
sympathetic to white people's claims of discrimination, even though
the country and its major institutions do not have a history of
oppressing and discriminating against whites. That is, there is no
intent to discriminate against white people. On the other hand,
those who control the country have an overwhelmingly long and
tragic history of oppressing and discriminating against blacks and
other non-whites, and have built this oppression into most of the
country's major institutions."
Mutua described the court as "largely unsympathetic to remedying
this history, its present day manifestations or its present
continuities." While individual whites merely have to show that
race was a consideration in some determination in order to have
their claims remedied, she says, blacks, other nonwhites and their
advocates usually have to actually prove "Intent."
"And it's intent with a capital I,' she says. "That is, they
have to prove that some individual intentionally intended to
discriminate against them to meet the court's highest standards of
The law scholar said she was "surprised" that Justice Anthony
Kennedy wrote the majority decision.
"Kennedy imposes a new standard that he imports from equal
protection analysis, an analysis developed and pushed by the
Supreme Court's ideologically conservative branch," she said. "The
justice imports this standard – a new standard in this area,
imposes it, largely without cites to precedent, and then denies the
City of New Haven an opportunity to try to meet the standard by
granting summary judgment for the petitioners."
She called this legal move "outrageous."
Since its founding in 1887, the University at Buffalo Law School
-- the State University of New York system's only law school -- has
established an excellent reputation and is widely regarded as a
leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum provides
both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical tools
graduates need to succeed in a competitive marketplace, wherever
they choose to practice. A special emphasis on interdisciplinary
studies, public service and opportunities for hands-on clinical
education makes UB Law unique among the nation's premier public law
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
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member of the Association of American Universities.