Bench Memos

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More on Thomas Perez


Thomas Perez is President Obama’s pick to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division, and his nomination is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Among the documents he has turned over to the Committee is a press release in which five years ago, as a Montgomery County (Maryland) councilmember, he took a position on firefighters and racial “diversity” that is eerily like that being taken now by the city of New Haven before the Supreme Court. Below is the press release, in full, with my annotations in italics.

Montgomery County Council
For Immediate Release        
June 29, 2004


Contact: Patrick Lacefield 240-777-7939 or Amanda Shumaker 240-777-7815


Councilmember Tom Perez today proposed a special appropriation of $200,000 to promote a more diverse workforce for the Fire and Rescue Service, responding to the most recent recruit class, in which only two out of 48 recruits are non-white.

Likewise, the complaint in New Haven is that the 20 promotions involved were 19 whites and one Latino.

“We have made great strides in attracting minorities to the County within the last 30 years,” said Councilmember Perez. “We need a workforce in the Department of Fire and Rescue Services that reflects the diversity of the County.”

So, if a county in Idaho has no African Americans, it should strive to make sure it hires no blacks?  Why is the goal not simply to hire the best possible firefighters?  (And, as someone who had already worked for many years in the civil rights division, Perez should know that, for purposes of determining whether there might be statistical evidence of hiring discrimination, what matters is not the racial makeup of the county, but the racial makeup of the applicant pool or, perhaps, the potential applicant pool.)

The latest statistics on the most recent class recruit [sic] represent the lowest minority recruitment since the county began keeping such records. Councilmember Perez called for an investigation into the written firefighter aptitude test to determine if the test gives any unfair advantage.

Likewise, the city’s post hoc rationalization in New Haven is that there was something wrong with the test if it led to politically incorrect results.

“These statistics are unacceptable,” said Perez. “But I have confidence that we can get back up to the original number of minorities in the Department, and develop a comprehensive plan to recruit diversely.”

Proponents of quotas always deny that they favor, uh, quotas.  But when the predetermined outcome is to “get back up to the original number of minorities,” how can that be characterized as anything else?

“I have worked closely with Fire and Rescue Chief Carr and several other leaders on this issue,” he said. “We have formed a partnership and the commitment from the department is clearly there.”

Didn’t “progressives” at one time favor civil service exams to ensure that political types didn’t rig the government’s hiring and promotion decisions?

“When somebody is experiencing a heart attack, we can’t ask them [sic] to hold on while we go get an interpreter. The need for minorities is crucial to the function of the rescue aspect of the Fire and Rescue Department.”# # #

If there is a need for multilingual fire and rescue employees, then hire some multilingual fire and rescue employees.  But do not assume that because someone is, say, Latino then he must be able to speak Spanish, and that if someone is non-Latino then he must speak only English.  Such an assumption might even be called “stereotyping.”

By the way, the Center for Equal Opportunity’s Linda Chavez, Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff, and I have already criticized Perez’s support for racial preferences in medical-school admissions, and he has also announced his eagerness “to examine whether a similar case could be made in other professions.” I guess that includes firefighting. 

It’s interesting that Perez should single out doctors and firefighters as the two jobs where he thinks it’s important to make sure that there is a politically correct racial and ethnic mix. Would the average American — when the scalpel is hovering above him, or her house is about to burn down — care about anything but the doctor’s and firefighter’s ability?


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