Indian-Americans Help Make a Case Against Affirmative Action

(Photo via News India Times)

Three Indian-American umbrella organizations have joined the campaign against race-conscious admissions to colleges and universities, reports Ela Dutt of News India Times.  The groups joined a Jewish organization and an Asian-American group in filing an amicus brief last month in support of a suit going before the Supreme Court that could decide the constitutionality of programs in which colleges consider the race or ethnicity of applicants.

The groups — including the ­ Indian American Forum for Political Education, the National Federation of Indian Associations and the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin — argue that the race-conscious admissions policies at many colleges and universities across that nation effectively subject Asian-American students to higher screening standards than whites or blacks.

“We want an informed, nondiscriminatory policy for every student irrespective of race, color or origin. One law for all,” Sampat Shivangi, president of the IAFPE, told News India Times.

“This race-based admission policy is really unfair to our children in a country where there is supposed to be justice and equal treatment of all,” added Lal Motwani, president of the NFIA.

“If there is any group that is underperforming, it should be brought up through various other means. Why punish those who perform well?”

The Indian-American groups joined the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., and the 80-20 National Asian American Educational Foundation based in Newark, Dela., in submitting the amicus brief in the Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas case.

Abigail Noel Fisher, a white student, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, and she argues that the university disregarded the state policy to give automatic admission to the top 10 percent of graduating high school students. The University has defended its right to consider other measures in student admission, a position that two lower courts have backed.

(Photo via News India Times)

Fisher’s attorney Bert Rein noted that this is the first time that Indian-Americans have entered the fray since the case began.

“This is the first time they have come in and distinctly identified themselves and not be lumped with Asian-American category,” he told News India Times in an interview. “One supposes that they have looked at the way colleges are using affirmative action policies and decided it is not right and affects the future of their children.”

Indian-Americans have argued for decades that their children are held to a higher standard than others. As far back as 1997, Princeton University sociology Professor Thomas J. Espanshade co-authored a study, “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life,” that found Asians had to score 140 points more than whites in standardized tests to get admitted to the same institution.

In the second part of the News India Times article, a representative for one of the groups behind the amicus brief defended the Asian groups’ anti-affirmative action position. Some other Asian-American groups have spoken out in favor of affirmative action.

Ved Chaudhary, coordinator for collective leadership with the 80-20 National Asian American PAC, said it is not opportunistic on the part of Indian-Americans to be on what may seem like the “other side” of affirmative action debate. “No Indian organization or parent wants an advantage or favor. For us affirmative action is equality of opportunity,” he told News India Times. “You have to let go the fear that one group will dominate.”

He also criticized clubbing “Asian-Americans” under one umbrella or an arbitrary geographic classification. “It defeats the reality of their differences. How similar is a Sikh to a Chinese person, for instance?” he questioned. “It will be beneficial for America to differentiate such varied cultures rather than saying, `Oh my gosh ­ there are too many of them (applying to this or that university).’”