In the Slate article that Steve refers to below, Richard Thompson Ford, (an African-American law professor)[email him] writes:
The Supreme Court in its ruling in favor of the white firefighters in Ricci pointed out that the city's written test was carefully developed by a professional company to be job-related and to avoid racial disparities. But Briscoe argues that the written exam did not, in fact, test for the skills that fire captains and lieutenants need on the ground; instead, it rewarded rote memorization.
Er, one of the skills that fire captains and lieutenants do need on the ground is rote memorization. What makes firefighting different from, say, journalism (where writers like me pretend to omniscience about facts that we just looked up five minutes before press time) is that everything happens so fast, and there is no time to look things up. All you can rely on is the knowledge that is actually inside your head, and if they aren't there, then you or someone you are supposed to be rescuing may die.
An inexperienced black lieutenant quota-hire lost his life because he didn’t recognize the signs of an impending back-draft (explosion). Eight other firefighters had thrown themselves to the floor to avoid the heat that was sure to come (later estimated at 2000 degrees), but the medical examiner’s report said the man had been standing, and had not properly used any of his protective clothing. Shouts from the firefighter bashing in the door to “hit the floor,” along with the eerie calm that precedes a back-draft were wasted on this unfortunate man, who was hired and promoted beyond his abilities. Affirmative-action literally killed him..[Fighting "Racism" Rather than Fires - A first-hand report on the consequences of affirmative action, American Renaissance, January 1996 ]