Black/Brown coalition fights back – University of Texas minority students

Austin

In a recent speech at the University of Texas, the Rev.
Jesse Jackson counseled a spirited crowd of several thousand chanting
students to “turn a minus into a plus” as they thought about how to
respond to the comments of UT law professor Lino Graglia who said
blacks and Hispanics come from cultures where “failure is not
considered a disaster.”

Seeming to take a cue from Jackson’s remarks, a new coalition of
national Hispanic and African American groups has pledged to join
forces in an effort to preserve affirmative action, boost federal
funding for colleges and universities that enroll significant numbers
of minority students, while developing initiatives that encourage
students to pursue higher education despite a growing movement against
race-based admissions policies.

Representatives of the coalition announced their plans earlier this
month at a press conference in Austin. Graglia is a tenured professor
at the UT School of Law. During the press conference, spokesmen for the
Black and Hispanic groups described Graglia’s remarks as racially
insensitive and indicative of a nationwide attack on affirmative action.

“This is not a UT-Austin problem. It’s a national problem,” said
Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and
Universities, who added that HACU’s member institutions represent
two-thirds of the Latino students enrolled in higher education.

Flores said Graglia’s comments are part of a conservative
“anti-minority” agenda that includes the voter-approved initiative in
California known as Proposition 209, which eliminated state-funded
affirmative action programs, so called immigration reform, and last
year’s ruling by Texas Attorney General Dan Morales that banned
race-based admissions policies at public colleges and universities in
Texas.

Gary Bledsoe, executive director of the NAACP in Texas, said while
Graglia may have a constitutional right to express his beliefs,
university officials must consider “whether an individual has a right
to libel, defame, humiliate” minority students to the point where it
limits their ability to attain higher education.

Bledsoe and another civil rights attorney are pursuing a racial
harassment claim filed against Graglia by three UT students. University
officials have said they have no plans to take action against Graglia,
though they regard his comments as offensive.

The coalition includes HACU, the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Education Fund, the League of United Latin American
Citizens, the United Negro College Fund, the National Association for
Equal Opportunities in Higher Education, and the Texas Association of
Chicanos in Higher Education.

James E. Garcia is a freelance writer in Austin, Texas, and editor
and publisher of Politico, a national newsletter covering Latino
politics.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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