An 11-year-old Indian American girl in New York is fighting an
antiquated law that keeps her out of the school of her choice because
she is not the right skin color. Her family is now fighting the racist
law in court, and it could well turn out to be a landmark victory for
the entire community.
"We feel vindicated"
In 2007, 11-year-old Nikita Rau was denied admission to one of the
most elite schools in New York City - Mark Twain Intermediate School
for the Gifted and Talented - not because her grades were not good
enough, but because she was the wrong colour of skin.
Nikita's shocked parents decided to file a class action lawsuit
challenging the race-based quota that had kept her out. And within
hours, the first sign of success: NY's School Chancellor announcing he
would request the Federal Court to end the quota.
Nikita's father Dr Anand Rau told Reuters, "Children should be judged
on the content of their character not on the colour of their skin. So
I think it was a vindication."
This the first step in the fight against racism for this Indian
American family in New York, in a country they say is the melting pot
The Mark Twain school for the gifted where Nikita wanted to study
music follows an antiquated quota system based on race in which 60% of
seats are set aside for white students, with 40% left for minorities.
The system dates back to 1974, and was designed to combat racial
segregation during the Civil Rights Movement.
The Raus see this first sign of a climbdown by the authorities as an
indicator of the growing assertiveness of Indian Americans in the
"I think it's about time...the same way Chinese Americans have, the
same way millions and thousands of immigrants have who came before us
who have asserted themselves. And I can quote Bobby Jindal, who is now
Governor of Louisiana. I think that's the way to go, we have to assert
our rights," says Dr Rau.
It could still be a long fight for the Raus, and for the Indian
American community at large, but the first signs are encouraging.
Nikita cannot get admission to Mark Twain till the quota is actually
lifted by the federal court - a process that could take long.
Eventually, she might not even choose to change her current school but
for her parents, the fight to challenge a discriminatory quota system
has been worth the time and the struggle.
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