The White Male Scholarship

Does he really need a scholarship?

Colby Bohannan, president of the Former Majority Association for Equality, has set up a scholarship program for white males. To qualify, you have to be at least a 25 percent Caucasian, have demonstrated a commitment to education, achieved at least a 3.0 grade average, show financial need, and document a positive contribution to the community. Bohannan’s official reasoning is that white males are the only group that doesn’t have a scholarship dedicated to them. He is, he says, righting an injustice.

To me, it smells like a stunt. Bohannan probably thinks the scholarship will open a larger debate about the fairness of race, ethnic or gender restricted scholarships aimed at diversity or affirmative action. The news media, predictably, has taken the bait, and he has been making the rounds of cable news shows, where he is typically pitted against a spitting-mad advocate for one minority group or another. Bohannan just sits and smiles and says that he doesn’t object to any of the other scholarships; he just thinks its time for white men to have one too. Meanwhile, the moldy arguments of his adversaries tend to make his real point. For example, one of those condemning Bohannan actually cited the thoroughly discredited statistic that women make 77 cents compared to every dollar earned by a man….the Dishonest Statistic That Will Not Die.

Of course, I may be giving Bohannan too much credit. It’s certainly possible that he’s just an idiot. After all, the terms of his supposedly white male scholarship would fit a large percentage of self-identified African-Americans in the United States, including Halle Berry, Mariah Carey, Derek Jeter, and, of course, Barak Obama. Still, the question to be answered here is: is this scholarship ethical?

Of course not. How could it be? Discrimination by race and gender is prima facie unethical, unless it can pass muster through a valid utilitarian calculation. Bohannan’s calculation is no more sophisticated than “they do it for everyone else, so why shouldn’t be have a discriminatory scholarship too?”,  a “two wrongs make a right” argument. Excluding Americans from programs, honors and benefits based on factors that have nothing to do with their ability or “the content of their character” is undemocratic, a violation of our national values, and an inherent insult to anyone who doesn’t qualify.

The same verdict applies to most, if not all, other scholarships that are restricted to racial groups or women. It applies to racially restricted awards programs too. Why are there still women-only scholarships, when there are more women in college and graduate school than men, and they are excelling? Why are there Pride Awards, or programs like BET Honors….or, for that matter, why is there a BET? These artificial divisions perpetuate bigotry and bias now, and encourage divisive groups like the Former Majority Association for Equality. Academic scholarships, without compelling reasons to the contrary, should be color and gender neutral, and based on ability, achievement, character and need.

At least the other scholarships and programs once had a legitimate rationale for their existence, even if it may have expired. Not Bohannan’s scholarship. If it is serious, it is unethical, and if it is a stunt, it’s wasting our time.


5 thoughts on “The White Male Scholarship

  1. Hmm… this is actually a subject that I feel passionate about for exactly the reasons you state. I’ve mentioned on this blog (in the comments) before about how I feel with regards to Student groups that support every student except the straight white male. What’s a guy like me to do when everyone’s at their meetings? The names of their groups suggest exclusion of others and create an unwritten rule that you should only attend if you meet the qualifications.

    With regards to student groups, I think your post would be more accurate. I think there’s more opportunity for all individuals to flourish in mixed student groups plus it spreads awareness of your “race-based” goals when you aren’t just “preaching to the choir”.

    However, for scholarships, surprisingly, I have to take the opposite approach. I think it’s because I believe that with scholarships, it’s about providing opportunity, whereas with student groups it’s about taking opportunity.

    Yes, I’d like to see as many groups as possible offer their scholarships based on ethics, character, & need vs. genetic profiling to reduce division and entitlement. However, when providing opportunity, there needs to be some assurance that your goals and motivations (if you had any) for creating the opportunity are met. I think we can see the value in elevating certain individuals because they are more easily able to connect and inspire future generations.

    I don’t think I’d ever want to take away the ability to inspire someone based on their specific situation. Whether it’s a scholarship because of skin color, height, disability, traumatic event, or physical ability, scholarships provide inspiration that no matter how you look upon yourself, there is opportunity.
    There are innumerable situations that arise that provide opportunity to a limited and select few. Many of the scholarships are targeted to replace what was lost. A scholarship for 9/11 victims to repair a family. A scholarship in memoriam of a specific individual to someone of similar characteristics.

    The system as it is with many donors shows that it can balance itself out as needed. So there’s 1 white male scholarship fund. Does that hurt the many other scholarship funds out there? Or does it bring balance to a system that brings opportunity to those with a need?

    The opposite would mean that you can’t inspire a kid with subjective reasons and using an objective system would turn the perception of the scholarship “system” into a lottery. The current system gives more than just scholarships. It gives inspiration and hope.

  2. Would you have the same opinion if you went to my university? At the University of Michigan, there were no academic scholarship administered by the university that did not have a minority or gender qualification. That’s right, white males did not qualify for ANY academic scholarships because they were white males. I wonder why a scholarship for white males is a waste of time or unethical given these circumstances (which were hardly unique at the time and probably still aren’t).

    Basically, the entire financial aid system in this country is unethical and broken. It isn’t just the goofy restrictions of scholarships by race, sex, vegetarian status, etc, the whole FAFSA criteria is illogical. It needs to be completely revised. Financial need depends on the level of debt the student’s parents are in, not the amount of money they make. A family of 4 that makes $50,000/year but pays off their credit cards, buys used cars, and lives in a small house qualify for less financial aid than the son of a major corporation VP who has 4 houses, boats, European vacations, a $400,000/year salary, but lots of debt.

  3. My daughter applied to over 50 scholarships last spring … all that she could. She was unable to apply to many, many more, because she didn’t meet the gender and race requirements. In fact, just the other day she complained on Facebook that a certain shoe manufacturer limited its scholarship to African American males. As she pointed out, as a young lady with a stereotypical “thing” for shoes, she owns a lot of that brand of “kicks” (several pair of which have been called “ghetto” by the children of privilege at her school), and should be eligible for that scholarship!

    That having been said, if an independent group wants to financially reward a specific category of student, I don’t think there’s much wrong with that. In fact, one day I might endow a scholarship for white high-GPA female volleyball players who have a historical preference for loud athletic footwear. 🙂

    Re: FAFSA … I just plain don’t get it. How do they seriously think my family — one public servant and one part-time non-manager — can afford $36k/year in tuition? AND how does the school that sees that decide we can afford $48k? Per year, for four years? I guess we are rich compared to people in other areas, but they don’t have a $1,500/month mortgage payment on a 4-bedroom in the suburbs, either. I’m hoping that after this year, which is taking almost all of our savings (thanks, recession, for killing the college fund), we are poor enough to qualify for greater aid for the rest of the education!

  4. You are to be sorry or sad for you white ass success! White people are successful because they get all of the scholarships, right!! Wrong!
    Having a level playing( no special treatment) field weeds out all of the less than desirable individuals. What would they do with out the crutch and the special treatment? Exactly

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