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Group pledges to continue legal challenge to Proposition 209

on January 8, 2011

On Friday afternoon, the civil rights group BAMN held a press conference in front of Oakland Technical High School to announce that it will continue its fight to overturn California’s Proposition 209 despite a federal judge’s recent decision to dismiss the group’s lawsuit challenging the initiative.

According to its website, BAMN—whose full name is the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary—was formed in 1995 “in response to the University of California (UC) Regents’ decision to ban affirmative action,” or policies that require public universities to consider race and gender as factors in admitting students. Affirmative action has been prohibited throughout California since 1996, after the passage of Proposition 209, a ballot measure sponsored by UC Regent Ward Connerly.

15 years later, BAMN is trying to restore affirmative action by filing a lawsuit contesting Prop 209, claiming that it violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. The suit names Connerly, Governor Jerry Brown, and UC President Mark Yudoff among the defendants.

“We believe that building a movement for equality, we can win back affirmative action, which is essential to increase the number of black, Latino, Native American and other underrepresented students,” said BAMN organizer Tania Kappner.

On December 8, US District Court Judge Samuel Conti dismissed BAMN’s suit, but on Friday Kappner said that the group had “filed paperwork in the circuit court in San Francisco” to appeal the decision. A group of 75 middle school and college students have filed as plaintiffs in the case because “the door has been slammed on their future,” said Kappner.

The opponents of affirmative action also argue that the policy violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids race-based preferential treatment. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the only African American currently on the Supreme Court, told CBS News this past February that he believes affirmative action creates “a cult of victimization” and implies that African Americans need “special treatment in order to succeed.” Other opponents even call the policy “reverse racism.”

But BAMN members say that ethnic minorities are underrepresented in California universities. According to the organization’s press release, while Latino, black and the Native American comprised almost fifty percent of California’s high school graduates in 2009, “these groups comprised only 19.3 percent and 20.6 percent of new freshman admits at UC Berkeley and UCLA respectively.”

“Since affirmative action has been taken away in California, there was immediately a drop of black and Latino students admitted to UC Berkeley,” said Kappner, who is also a U.S. history teacher at Oakland Tech. Kappner said that she was the only African American student when she was taking UC Berkeley’s education program to get her teaching credential.

“California schools are more segregated than the schools in the south now,” said Kappner. “Why should California be a backwater?”

Image: Tania Kappner speaks to the press on Friday afternoon in front of Oakland Technical High School, where she teaches U.S. history and English. 


  1. TheSkylineHighSenior on January 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

    You should get into an institution of higher learning based on your merits, from getting high GPA’s to taking AP courses while in high school and not your skin color. I fully agree with what Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas said. Yes diversity looks nice but since the UC’s are meant to take in the brightest and guide them to become future engineers, researchers, physicists, physicians, etc we need the most academically fit in those courses (for our sake and for theirs to survive in rigorous programs). It’s like saying the United States Marine Corps under represents overweight people in the infantry. No, they need the best people to do the job.

    • Ye Tian on January 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      BAMN proclaims that SAT itself is a discriminating test.

      • Brian on February 28, 2011 at 9:05 am

        BAMN’s claim is nonsense.

        They do nothing more than say that because group ‘A’ doesn’t do as well as group ‘B’ that the test is discriminatory.

        In fact, the gap in SAT scores is reflected in test scores of all kinds taken across the world for more than a century.

      • Brian on March 1, 2011 at 2:58 pm

        Oh, and by the way, you need to call the other side of an issue on stories like these. BAMN is a fringe, radical group making wild and inaccurate claims. Pick up the phone and get the other side, at least. This is lazy, lazy journalism.

    • optimist on February 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

      Your comment regarding getting into an institution of higher learning should be based on one’s GPA and AP courses in high school and not on the color of one’s skin is a shallow argument. The real reason many African Americans and other people of color can’t compete academically has nothing to due with their intelligence. It has to do with their economic and social status in this country as well as their race. Since education is the real equalizer, what’s wrong with giving them a chance to compete? Test scores and GPA’s aren’t the only evidence of high intelligence. If that were the case Clarence Thomas would not be on the supreme court and I believe he was an affirmation action baby.

  2. Brian on March 1, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Also, let me get this right. This teacher — paid with taxpayer dollars — is advocating discrimination against some of her students based on race? You think I’m going to trust her with my kid for a nanosecond? And people actually wonder why whites don’t send their children to inner city schools? Well guess what, it’s not such a mystery. This right here is an example of why public schools are completely out of control. They’re unaccountable to both the tax payers and the parents.

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