The College Republican group at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island recently offered a $250 scholarship exclusively to white students. The move was intended to protest affirmative action and has sparked controversy nationwide. Applicants had to write an essay answering the question, "Why are you proud of your white heritage?" and include a picture to ensure that the candidate was white. Although the group is private and thus legally allowed to offer such a scholarship, it is unfortunate, and even ridiculous that they would take such an action.
In an interview with the Associated Press, the group's president, Jason Mattera, claimed that this move was "a statement that scholarships should be given out based on merit and need." If this is their goal, the scholarship is counterproductive, because they are merely promoting the system they claim to be fighting against. Mattera's group is offering an additional racially biased award, just like those offered by affirmative action groups.
Instead of effectively protesting affirmative action, Mattera's group has most likely created a negative learning environment at Roger Williams. The group's action may be seen by some minorities as an attack on them, thus inciting sharp racial tensions within the school. The College Republican group is not unaccustomed to this kind of controversy. In fact, last fall, their funding was cut short by the school, following a series of published articles defaming a student gay-rights group.
Scholarship money is most effectively spent on students selected based on merit and need, making Mattera's point valid. Unfortunately, he is ignoring an important fact: race is not completely disjointed from need. The socioeconomic status of Americans has been linked to race in several recent studies. According to an Environmental Protection Agency Community Risk Assessment, more U.S. minorities under 18 lived in poverty than whites of the same age in 2001. The research showed that 30.2 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Latinos fell into this category. Only 9.5 percent of whites lived in poverty. Clearly, race and poverty levels are correlated. Mattera scholarship ignores this link.
Furthermore, there are still racial barriers embedded in society, evidenced by discrimination in the workplace, at schools and in social groups. By awarding scholarships to those groups who are stereotyped against, we can weaken this discrimination, but a whites-only award only perpetuates the problem.
Finally, the group's action is not just unfortunate - it is ironic and absurd. Mattera is a 20-year-old Puerto Rican student who was awarded and accepted a $5000 scholarship for minorities. He has not shown any sign of intending to give back the money, making the all-white scholarship less credible and more of a joke.
Seema Kacker. Seema is a senior in the magnet this year, and is thrilled to be a part of the Online senior staff. She also plays tennis. More »