Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Color of Deception: The Truth About Race-Based Scholarships

February 17th, 2007 by Ajuan Mance

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.

from “A Particularly Cheap White Whine: Racism, Scholarships and the Manufacturing of White Victimhood”  by Tim Wise on

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, “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:

  • 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.”
  • 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 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.
  • 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


Posted in African Americans, Black Students, Current Events, Higher Education, My Favorite Blogs, racism

9 Responses

  1. cornelius

    I like to deal with realism, instead of normative analyses, which you seem to enjoy examining more. You state that higher education institutions in this country are “overwhlemingly white.” But that is America – America is overwhelmingly white. (And why do you capitalize Black, but not white – it is a testament to your inherent racism). You speak as if you would like to see universities half black and half white. Unofortunately, that would be mathematically impossible. You fact at the bottom of the article, that 14 percent of all university students identify as black or AA almost reflects the national average of blacks in the country. That is not low then! That, spot-on, means that universities reflect the racial make-up of the country. But black leaders like you, like the Sharptons, the Rangels, want to continually tell blacks that they are still being held down. You ignore the advice of leaders like Clarence Thomas, Bill Cosby, and Condi Rice, who have used the opportunities available to all Americans, and made themselves great. You, rather, embrace the ideology that blacks deserve more than other students b/c they are being held down. But here is where I embrace realism: blacks, and their leaders, are holding themselves down. Black popular culture is riddled with drugs, money, exploitation of girls (which is a big reason why black girls have succeeded more than boys – they are driven to defy that gender based stereotype), and most importantly, no family. This popular culture, which is propagated by BET and MTV, has affected all races: whites, hispanics, asians, have all, to some degree, sought to emulate this depraved culture. I blame the parents for allowing their kids to not realize that education is an investment in their future, and that is why it is a right for all Americans. Kids cannot realize this; they are just kids. They have great dreams of being athletes, musicians, actors, and artists. But not all will realize their dreams, and this is where it is the obligation of the parent to provide a back-up to their dreams. That is what education is in capitalist countries: a safety-net for dreams unrealized. But the reality is that black families are the most fractured, and their children the least disciplined. Asians Americans, and Asians in generals, due to their predominately Confucian heritage, regard family order and parental guidance as key to life. As a result, Asian children tend to do the best in schools. This is reality, and until the black community in America stops trying to blame everyone else, and change the rules for everyone to favor them, in light of their lack of family and parental guidance, they will continue to meet resistance by the realists and lovers of logic.

  2. Temple3

    You speak as if

    black leaders like you, like the Sharptons, the Rangels, want to continually tell blacks that they are still being held down. You ignore the advice of leaders like Clarence Thomas, Bill Cosby, and Condi Rice

    embrace the ideology that blacks deserve more than other students b/c they are being held down. But here is where I embrace realism: blacks, and their leaders, are holding themselves down

    But the reality is that black families are the most fractured, and their children the least disciplined. Asians Americans, and Asians in generals, due to their predominately Confucian heritage, regard family order and parental guidance as key to life

    Damn, Amance…gotta be tough to ignore these non-empirical, pseudo-intellectual arguments. Logic/reason sans number and coherence. what to do, what to do? I guess you’ll have to break it down…point by stoopid ass point.

  3. twilightandreason

    Temple3, I wish toughness was the reason that I did not immediately respond to Cornelius’s post. In truth, there is so much projection and misinterpretation in Cornelius’s response that I really didn’t know where to begin.

    I would advise Cornelius to re-read my post, and to remember that my words are my own, not Al Sharpton’s or Charles Rangel’s. It is highly problematic to divide all African Americans into two camps, the Sharpton/Rangel camp and the Thomas/Cosby/Rice camp.

    In reality, most African Americans’ views incorporate elements of each camp, plus a lot of ideas and perspectives that neither group represents.

    Cornelius, you seem to be angry at what you perceive to be U.S. Black people’s sense of entitlement to–for lack of a better phrase–more than we deserve.

    Don’t believe the hype Cornelius. One of the unfortunate results of the media’s focus on the opinions of so-called Black leaders is that the feelings and beliefs of everyday African Americans go completely unreported.

    By focusing on high-profile activist figures, most of whom speak in deliberately provocative soundbites, the mainstream media creates a view of U.S. Black people based on positioning us at one or another political extreme. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    I suppose I should end my response by naming your post for what I think it is. Cornelius, I believe you have a lot of anger toward African Americans because of what the media has taught you to believe about our expectations for preferential treatment.

    Cornelius, people of African descent have been in what is now the United States of America since at least 1619. In that time we have learned that the last thing we should ever expect from the white power structure is “preferential treatment.”

    Nor do we spend much of our time blaming other people for our ills. To do so would suggest that we believe that mainstream white Americans and other non-Blacks will ever truly reject white supremacy.

    Turn off your television, put away your mainstream newsmagazines, you mainstream newspapers, and while you’re at it you should probably trash just about any left- or right-wing publication that is not directed toward an African American audience.

    If you really want to know what Black people think — that is, beyond the soundbites and cliches that you paraphrase in your response to my post — then you should do some homework and some footwork and dig up some of those publications that Black people have created for Black readers. Brochures and speeches by Black politicians and political appointees like Sharpton and Rangel, Thomas and Rice won’t cut it. Nor will anything created by so-called leaders like Jesse Jackson and Bill Cosby. These folks are at least as committed to advancing their own fame and power as they are to making true social and political change for Black people.

    I’m not a Black leader, but I do wish you would read my words more carefully. Your extended rant, based on my assertion that the white hysteria over the 0.25% of all scholarship money that is earmarked for people of color consitutes unjustified whining, is an example of the exact phenomenon that I am writing to critique.

    My suggestion that Euro-Americans who decry scholarships for people of color while enjoying their own ethnicity-specific college funding are unrepentant hypocrites so irritated you that you decided to attack my post for all the things that I didn’t say, rather than addressing the ideas that I actually expressed.

  4. Temple3

    send me an e-mail when you get a chance…I was at U-M when you were there.

  5. Temple3

    I didn’t even know Sharpton and Rangel had a camp – much less the same camp. And I know damn well that Clarence Thomas doesn’t have a camp – unless it full of white Roman Catholic women. u can’t make this stuff up!

  6. twilightandreason

    U-M? Really? I’ll definitely email you. Now I’m reaaaallly curious.

  7. cornelius

    Thank you for your response. But I have to clarify; I am no racist. I believe wholeheartedly in ability and intelligence – both of which history has proven that any human on this earth is capable of. These things transcend race, and are necessary for success in life. And in fact, I live in the most multicultural city in the country. I have traveled the world and met people from many cultures. The source of my most pride about traveling is that it is impossible to tell, in a foreign country, if some other foreigner is an American or not. There is no ‘American’ looking person. And contrary to your guess, I do not harbor any anger towards blacks, but only those who ask for things which they did not earn. As it is, this tends to be the leaders of the black community in America today. It is a shame really. The system in America is set up so that anyone can succeed.

    But black Americans have not, in great numbers, embraced the long hard road of education: black Americans perpetually have the lowest high school graduation rates in the country; they have the highest percentage of youths in prison; they have the highest number of teen mothers, etc. These are facts, and we can all agree that they would be detrimental to having an individual go on to college, perhaps graduate school, and generally succeed in life.

    But do you dispute the facts above? If you cannot, what are the options to spur change? Scholarships, like the ones described in the article, are absolutely a great way. But the article ignored a major flaw. ALL of the scholarships named for white Americans, or various European ethnicity, are private scholarships. Private scholarships should not be bound by anything, since they are private. If all black scholarships were private, there could be no reason for anyone to complain. But there should not be, as the SCOTUS has ruled, any taxpayer funds used for scholarships based on any race, gender, etc. But the existence of HBCU, and the $200+ million in federal funds that they receive annually, is inherently racist. Can you imagine the existence of white-only universities, or any other ethnic group? How can someone like yourself, who is undoubtedly smart and the beneficiary of self-determination and hard work, claim that they are not?

    Blacks and HBCU, by a long shot, are not the only group to ever receive federal funds for a discriminatory program – catholic schools frequently receive federal aid, and this is wrong. But the article above presents a skewed view of the real problem with scholarships, and in general, the federal dollars received by HBCU.

    And while you state that you are not a black leader, I would contend that you are, or at least should be if you believe that the efforts of the Rangels and Sharptons are not helpful to black Americans. Their efforts are focused on convincing the black community that they are held down, and that they, as long as they are in power, are fighting for for black Americans. This is the tactic of a lot of politicians. It is a terrible one. And while you claim that I have generalized the wrong aspects of black public policy and was hysterical to respond to your post, you are the one who has claim to know what all white people believe by stating that “white students feel are too much.” It is nice of you to speak for all white people in America, but you are utterly wrong. In fact, you are the one who has started an entire blog based on advancing these misrepresentations.

  8. Jennifer

    BWAHAHAHAHA!!!! What a brilliant list. Thanks so much! If I hear one more person complain about the “Free Money Just For Being Black” scholarship, I will scream!

  9. Ed

    Nice website and an interesting topic.

    One key factor has been neglected. The problem is due to the combination of money AND race-based admission preferences (i.e., quotas). What people object to is the form of affirmative action that uses race/gender-based preferences to allow those of objectively lower academic standards (SATs and grades) to be admitted to certain universities in place of those who have better grades and SAT scores. If the person that is admitted (typically, a woman or member of a racial minority group ) then has economic needs, the financial aid is not considered a “scholarship”, but is need-based financial aid. In the end, it is effectively the same thing as a scholarship.

    Now, if admissions standards were equally applied, most folks today would go along with can see some form of reasonable affirmative action. E.g., it there are 10 spots available, and there are 20 equally qualified candidates, and a racial minority is among those who are equally qualified, then giving an admission to a candidate based on racial grounds is acceptable, but only to truly equally qualified students (on the basis of objective criteria like SATs and grades). Remember, the kids who are being rejected in favor of less qualified students have never engaged in racial discrimination. Why should they be discriminated against? Especially when there are lots of schools that women and racial minorities are perfectly qualified to attend, and can do so without any bending of admission rules or other games being played. If a black kid who is good at math meets the admission standards to be an engineering student at (e.g.) Michigan State, why do we play games to have he or she admitted to MIT? There is a reason why the colleges and universities do not release their woman and racial minoority SAT scores, and why they are moving away from using SATs – so that they cannot be challenged on their continued use of quotas.

    So, its not the money, but the targeting of race/gender and then giving money (so-called “financial aid”) that is the problem. If quota-like affirmative action admissions programs were eliminated, then you would see less of an outcry.

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