The Corner

Coming and Going

Roger: The campaign to purge every trace of racial inequality from our public life has apparently reached the point where ugly, intractable contradictions have begun to show up.

Recall the Ricci v. DeStefano case last year. The town of New Haven pleaded, in their defense, that they had no option but to scrap their firefighter exams because, no matter how hard they tried, the exam results showed “disparate impact” on minorities. The Supreme Court found, however, that scrapping the exam was unfair to non-minority firefighters. What’s a town to do? If you do one thing, you are discriminating; if you do the opposite thing, you are discriminating; yet you must do something, if firefighters are to be hired and recruited.

This kind of knotty contradiction is showing up all over. Mark Steyn’s been on the case, pointing out how politically correct pandering to Islam in Europe runs bang up against Islamic proscriptions of homosexuality. You can pander to homosexuals or you can pander to Muslims, but you can’t pander to both.

Now here we are with the New York Times story about the Justice Department fighting “bias in lending.” If a banker rules out minority neighborhoods because he thinks they contain too many credit risks, Justice will come down on him like a ton of bricks for “redlining.” If he then makes amends by seeking out low-income minorities, and offers them loans tailored so they can afford them — no-deposit, “pick-a-pay,” etc. — Justice will come down on him like two tons of bricks for “predatory lending.”

Perhaps we should just cease all commercial and municipal activity altogether. If nobody is doing anything, then nobody is discriminating, right? But then, what would there be for the Justice Department to do?

“Wherein he does nothing, but nothing remains undone.” — Tao Te Ching, §48

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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