The Color of Deception: The Truth About Race-Based Scholarships
According to a national study by the General Accounting Office, less than four percent of scholarship money in the U.S. is represented by awards that consider race as a factor at all, while only 0.25 percent (that’s one quarter of one percent for the math challenged) of all undergrad scholarship dollars come from awards that are restricted to persons of color alone.
This passage raises some important questions about the things we know and the things that we think we know about race and higher education. The construction of the white college student as victim of so-called “reverse racism” is the equally troubling counterpart to the stereotype of the African American college student as the always already underprepared, academically unqualified, preternaturally anti-intellectual, affirmative action admit.
It is hard to say which is more dangerous, the depiction of the Black student as intellectually inferior beneficiary of biased admissions and scholarship programs or the public depiction of the white student as victim of wrong-headed attempts to diversify college campuses. I am certainly a lot more disturbed by the latter, possibly because the stereotype of the Black simpleton has been such a deeply entrenched component of the white, western cultural mythos that it is no longer shocking to me.
The “manufacturing of white victimhood” is also more disturbing to me because of what it says about notions of entitlement. Given that the overwhelming majority of U.S. college students are white, and considering that white students receive the bulk of all federal and privately-funded financial aid, the notion that even this much abundance feels like oppression to many white people in higher education speaks volumes about the degree to which higher education is still raced in this country. For far too many white students, any encroachment by students of color into academia — even small gains in minority student populations, and even small amounts of minority-specific financial aid — feel like too much.
The small inroads that African Americans and other people of African descent have made into undergraduate populations could hardly be construed as a “browning of academe”; and yet for white and other non-Black students, who have come to associate academic excellence with the absence of Black students, even a handful of African Americans, funded by an infinitesimal proportion of all available scholarship dollars diminishes the specialness of the intellectual enterprise.
As I contemplated how it has come to pass that one quarter of one percent of all scholarships awarded to somewhere around 14 or 15 percent of all undergraduates* constitutes the vicimization of white college students and applicants, I began to compile a list of some of those scholarships that either express a preference for or are exclusively awarded to U.S. members of white, European ethnic groups. As Chris De Morsella notes on MulticulturalAdvantage.com, “scholarships that are targeted towards some group or another literally number in the millions. The overwhelming majority of these scholarships are NOT targeted towards minority groups.” These scholarships rarely draw the ire of those outside of the specified ethnic groups, despite their openly expressed preferences. For a more detailed exploration of the backlash against minority scholarships, check out Chris de Morsella’s “One Million White Ethnic Scholarships Don’t Trouble Student Group Protesting Minority Scholarships.”
Here is just a sampling of what I came up with, along with the exclusionary language provided by the scholarship administrators themselves:
- The Emanuele and Emilia Inglese Memorial Scholarship for “an Italian American undergraduate student who traces his/her ancestry from the Lombardy region and is the first generation of his/her family to attend college.”
- The August Society Scholarship Program, “designed for students of Italian Heritage.”
- The Albert and Emma C. Martocchio Scholarship, for “undergraduate students attending Providence College who are of Italian descent. “
- The Andrea Vicini Memorial Scholarship, for which “preference will be given to students of Italian descent.”
- Ben Landriscina Scholarship, for “undergraduate students of Italian descent attending Pace University.”
- Fieri Bronx-Westchester Scholarship, for “Italian American college students living or attending a college located in the Bronx or Westchester.”
- Astrid B. Cates/Myrtle Beinhauer Fund Scholarship, for “applicants enrolling in post-secondary training or education including trade school, vocational school or college,” and who are “current Sons of Norway members, children or grandchildren of current Sons of Norway members.”
- Camille Collette Daughters of Norway Scholarship, for students of “Scandinavian Heritage”
- Finnish American Social Club Scholarship, for “graduating seniors of Finnish heritage; especially to study history, political science or economics.”
- Hellenic University Club of Philadelphia — “All applicants must be of Greek descent, U.S. citizens, and lawful permanent residents of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, or Philadelphia Counties in Pennsylvania; Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester or Salem Counties in New Jersey.”
- Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund — “Applicants must be of Greek descent, and between the ages of 17 and 25 as of May, 2007.”
- Hellenic Society Paideia of Virginia — The applicant “must be Greek or Greek-American attending an accredited four-year College or University located in Virginia.“
- The Hellenic University Club of New York, for students of “Hellenic ancestry.”
- Hellenic Professional Society of Texas — “Applicants are eligible for a scholarship if they are currently attending or have been accepted by a college or university in Texas, have shown excellent scholastic performance in their corresponding fild of study, and are of Hellenic heritage. The Society may also consider applications from students of non-Greek descent that have demonstrated clear, strong and sustained excellence in academic studies related to Greek letters or affairs.”
- The Daughters of Erin Scholarship — Applicant “must be a junior or regular member in good standing who has demonstrated a commitment to the goals and mission of The Daughters of Erin through their active service to the organization for at least one year prior to applying for the scholarship.” Daughters of Erin is described as “Central Ohio’s Irish-American Women’s Organization.”
- Irish American Home Society Scholarship, for “members or sons/daughters of ‘members in good standing’ (paid dues to date) of the Glastonbury Irish-American Society. This membership must be active for the past 3 years for eligibility.”
- The Polish Scholarship Fund, Inc. — “Students are eligible who are of Polish descent, who have resided in Central New York in following counties: Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego for a minimum of two years and who have been accepted for admission to any accredited college, university, or training school as a full time student.”
- Massachusetts Federation of Polish Women’s Clubs, for “United States citizens of Polish descent and Polish citizens with permanent residency status in the United States who are undergraduate students, and are members of the Massachusetts Federation of Polish Women’s Clubs.“
- St. Andrews Society of Washington, D.C., — “Scholars must be of Scottish birth or descent.”
- Cajun French Music Association Scholarship — “to apply for this scholarship, applicant must be a member, or a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of a member in good standing of the Lafayette Chapter of the Cajun French Music Association.”
*In the year 2000, roughly 14 percent of all U.S. undergraduates identified as Black or African American (U.S. Census).
Posted by Ajuan Mance