The "Inexorable Zero"

Bert I. Huang, Columbia Law School


For over a quarter century, legal arguments about segregation, discrimination, and affirmative action have invoked the image of the "inexorable zero" – complete absence of any women or minorities at a given school or workplace. Yet as evocative as the phrase might be, its precise doctrinal import has remained elusive. This Note recounts the original use of the concept in a landmark Title VII case and documents a current circuit split. It then articulates theoretical grounds upon which the concept’s intuitive appeal might rest. Finally, it excavates a further, more complex rationale that the Supreme Court may have contemplated at the concept’s genesis.