Intervenors argue affirmative action helps many races

Daily News Writer
Published February 13, 2001

DETROIT As the lawsuit challenging the Law School admission policies heads into its final day of witness testimony later this week, the intervening defendants yesterday attempted to show that affirmative action is not a black-and-white issue literally.

Opponents of affirmative action, including the plaintiff"s counsel, the Center for Individual Rights, have contended that race-conscious admissions can be detrimental to Asian-Americans because they are not typically classified as underrepresented minorities.

"Asian-Americans clearly benefit and are clearly not harmed (by affirmative action)," said Howard University law Prof. Frank Wu. Because the term "Asian-American" encompasses many different countries, Wu told U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, to call all Asians overrepresented is misleading.

For example, the passage of Proposition 209, which ended affirmative action in California, has eliminated the representation of certain Asian groups such as Filipino students at the University of California at Los Angeles altogether.

It is widely acknowledged, Wu said, that Asian-Americans have been held up as a kind of "model minority." While this may seem positive, Wu warned that the positive stereotypes of Asian-Americans carry with them a negative counterpart.

But CIR lawyer Larry Purdy disputed this point, saying outside the courtroom that "I don"t think any of the positive things you hear about Asian-Americans are then used in a negative way," a point he attempted to make during cross examination.

Wu testified that the stereotype of Asian-Americans as a "model minority" not only promotes discrimination but also pits Asian-Americans against blacks in the affirmative action debate.

Because of the success of some Asian-Americans, Wu said, the group is "brought into this debate and held up as if to say, "They made it, why can"t you?"" to blacks.

Wu said he was also troubled by the stereotype because it causes backlash against Asian-Americans. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans, he said, increased after the passage of Proposition 209.

"Asian-Americans have benefited tremendously from affirmative action and in addition, we wanted to make clear that the Asian-American community has overwhelmingly taken a position of refusing to be used as a vehicle for racist insults towards other minorities and, in particular, black people," said Miranda Massie, lead counsel for the intervenors.

Also testifying yesterday was Faith Smith, President of Native American Educational Services, a private college. Smith said the dropout rate for Native Americans is high at conventional colleges.

She added that affirmative action programs are necessary to educate mainstream society about Native Americans, and it also helps to "change the quality of people working in our community."

The University also recalled Education Prof. Stephen Raudenbush, who reiterated his earlier testimony criticizing the analysis of CIR witness and statistician Kinley Larntz, who maintained that there is no statistical model that can measure the extent to which race is used in admissions decisions.

The intervenors will continue their case presentation Thursday, and each side will have 45 minutes for closing arguments on Friday.