As you may already know, a Southern Utah University student named Samantha Niemann is suing the Getty Foundation, an arts institution in Los Angeles, because the internships it administers are reserved for “underrepresented minorities.”
Ms. Niemann, a white woman, filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, and apparently did not hire a copy editor.
Here’s what she alleges, per the Los Angeles Times:
“I was denied an hire [sic] to an internship program because I am white and because I am not within the specified minorty [sic] groups African American, Asian, Latino, Hispanic, Native American or Pacific Islander,” states Niemann in the complaint. “I protested, and was still denied opportunities to work for The Getty Foundation. The getty [sic] failed to investigate and failed to take appropriate remedial action and failed to hire me.”
But it actually gets worse, if you can believe. The LA Times says that because of California’s fairly strong employment protections, Ms. Niemann may actually have a case. Worse still, if it went to trial and the court found in her favor, many programs for minority students in the state could be in peril.
Most cases along these lines involve the government, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean at University of California Irvine’s School of Law, told the paper. “This is an unusual situation because it’s a private foundation using its money to promote diversity through internships. I don’t know of cases that have involved a situation like this, a private foundation using its own money.”
But what is the one ironic shred of hope in all of this idiocy? The prestigious internship, called the Multicultural Undergraduate Internship Program, has actually had white participants in the past. Because the Getty uses a loose definition of “under-represented minority,” they actually once placed a Colombian-born, white, male, evangelical Christian in an internship they fund. Take that!
This helps the Getty’s case, the LA Times said, because it bolsters the foundation’s statement that its program serves college students in “group[s] underrepresented in museums and visual arts organizations.” Such professionals are 84 percent white and 70 percent women, the paper said.
Still, the lawsuit poses a threat to diversity programs because it could create a chilling effect. After all, not every organization has as much cash on hand to defend itself from lawsuits as the Getty Foundation does. (Let’s take this time to recall a fun quote often attributed to J. Paul Getty: “The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights.”)
How about an internship where white aspiring litigants learn to spell? I think Getty would have wanted that.