Actors Equity Association has just reversed itself on the principled position it had taken on the casting of white British actor Jonathan Pryce in a Eurasian role in the musical "Miss Saigon." Actors Equity was wrong to reverse itself, and The Post editorial of Aug. 15 criticizing Equity's original position {"This Is Equity?"} was wrong too.

The editorial called the Equity position "ludicrous" and extreme, statements that indicate insensitivity to the concerns of Asian Americans and lack of historical understanding of Asian experience with the entertainment industry.

Your solution, that of casting minorities in "so-called nontraditional roles," does not take into account the problem faced by Asian Americans since the beginnings of our relationship with the entertainment industry. The only roles traditionally available to Asian-American acting professionals have been minor roles, often stereotyped and more often negative in the image they project. These roles have projected a racist view of Asian Americans to larger society and have exacerbated anti-Asian feeling. In addition, these roles gave little opportunity for Asian actors and actresses to demonstrate their skills.

But when major roles have developed for Asians, these roles have regularly been filled by whites. Not just occasionally, but consistently. It was as if Asians were incapable of filling important acting roles, when in fact the caricatured version of an Asian, while less accurate, was more desired by an industry that sought to exploit and perpetuate these negative images.

Actresses Mary Pickford, Myrna Loy, Katherine Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine and actors Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Peter Sellers, Joel Grey, Jerry Lewis, Peter Ustinov, Ross Martin, Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner and John Wayne all took Asian roles using exaggerated mannerisms and often insulting eye makeup. Back in the days of the color bar, this might be understandable. But this practice continues in recent times. It is not only a matter of giving Asian performers a chance. It also prevents a more accurate and less stereotyped view of Asians by the public and denies positive Asian role models.

I have yet to see or hear of an example of Asian Americans being cast in a "nontraditional role." And while I concede that such opportunities have opened for minorities in, for example, Shakespearean productions, that is an entirely different matter. Lack of minority spots in such classical roles has been an impediment to minority advancement.

Not all of these roles, though written at a time when racism was acceptable, were race specific. And the roles are so established that "nontraditional" casting adds a new dimension to an otherwise very familiar character. But "nontraditional" casting seems always to work against, not for, Asian Americans. While the moral position Actors Equity took initially may have appeared at odds with such casting, perhaps it could have helped to give Asian Americans opportunities that others have been provided.

The Post may feel that the Actors Equity position was "silly" and "ludicrous." Perhaps this is because The Post has yet to appreciate fully the continuing history of anti-Asian racism in the United States. While covering fully the inter-minority group conflicts in New York City, The Post has ignored the Bensonhurst-like racial killings of Chinese-American Jim Loo in Raleigh, N.C., and of Vietnamese-American Hung Truong in Houston.

Just as in the days of the early civil rights movement, moral efforts such as Equity's that focus attention on racial inequity will often be trivialized. But perhaps we have won something by at least getting this issue discussed at the national level.

-- Paul M. Igasaki The writer is the Washington representative of the Japanese American Citizens League.

George Will writes that Actors Equity Association is racist for having demanded that an Asian actor be cast in an Asian role {"Trendy Racism of Actors Equity," op-ed, Aug. 12}. He questions the union's morality, intelligence and artistic sensibility.

As an actor and an Equity member I say that Equity was right.

The entertainment industry is one of the last great bastions of bigotry and discrimination. It is bad enough that actors of color are used almost exclusively in roles that are clearly identified as racial stereotypes. But particularly offensive are the instances where Caucasians are cast as Hispanics, Asians or Native Americans, thereby denying opportunities to the vastly talented actors of these ethnic minorities.

The campaigns by unions and guilds to enlighten producers, casting agents, directors, audiences and even actors regarding fair casting have been admirable.

-- Carlos Juan Gonzalez