The Comment of the Day: Another On “The White Male Scholarship”

John-Baptiste Clamence reacts to yesterday’s post with a crucial point (that I happen to agree with) about the role of law in setting cultural values and societal ethics. Here is his Comment of the Day, on “The White Male Scholarship”:

“It’s a hard line to draw sometimes; the line between your right to have the wrong opinion, and how much the law should push you to have the right opinion.
In the UK, since 1996 it has been illegal for B&Bs to refuse rooms to gay couples. These are private businesses – should they have the right to offer their services in a discriminatory way also?

“The situation you describe is, in my view, unethical for the reason that it perpetuates the idea in society that racial discrimination for an academic award is OK. The sooner and stronger the message given by the law is, then the sooner the views of society change.

“To paraphrase Cesar Millan: Change the behaviour, change the thoughts.”

7 thoughts on “The Comment of the Day: Another On “The White Male Scholarship”

  1. Britain is different than the US I guess. Apparently there, if you had a room you rented nightly in your home, your religious beliefs could not be respected. However, here in the US, I suspect that rule might have a few exceptions based on size or if the building is “mixed use”.

    Either way, business regulation in a foreign country is a distraction from the topic at hand, which is a private citizen’s ability to provide opportunity where they see a need.

    We aren’t talking about all scholarships. There’s four different kinds. Merit-based, Need-based, Student-specific, or Career-specific. Of these four, only Student-specific require the applicant to initially qualify based on race, religion, etc.

    Imagine if you will an Indian Reservation in America where the community lacks certain professionals such as dentists and lawyers and they distrust people from outside their tribe to represent them and to be a part of their community. They build a scholarship fund to help kids within their community become one of the needed professionals and return home.

    Sure, a law forcing them to integrate and give their community money to the best applicant regardless of race might usher in a new era of understanding and acceptance, but it might not. In all likelihood, they would not create a recurring scholarship and simply gift the money to the student they choose. There won’t be any guarantee to the student for future assistance and they won’t be sure that they’ll be able to financially finish what they started.

    Allowing Student-specific scholarships encourages the creation and availability of scholarships that did not previously exist. And that is good.

    • WRT the Indian Reservation that lacks needed professionals – that’s evolution in action, which applies not only to physical traits but also dogmatic belief systems. If a community suffers because they hold the idea of “I only want someone from my own ethnicity to be my doctor” then I have no sympathy (though granted I am somewhat empathically challenged at the best of times 😉 if that community suffers because of that.
      Any needless discrimination (positive or negative) of race reinforces that it is acceptable. By your own argument, if a private business is run by nazis should they be allowed to advertise for jobs with “no jews allowed” in the advert? The business owners would simply close down the business if they can’t run it as they want, therefore they are providing jobs that wouldn’t be there otherwise, therefore it would seem analogous to your Allowing Student-specific scholarships encourages the creation and availability of scholarships that did not previously exist. And that is good. argument.

      WRT the general question of whether people should be free to set up a scholarship that is positively discriminating, actually I think it should be legal – I just think it is dubious ethically (for the reason stated previously). There was a touch of devil’s advocacy in my position. I also think those B&B owners should be free to turn away anyone they want. I guess it comes down to rights of the individual as opposed to the best thing for society. Unless I am the dictator, I am on the side of individual rights winning out – if an action is private and doesn’t cause any direct harm then the law should not interfere.

  2. Jack,
    Of course scholarships are undemocratic .. so what? Aside from grant programs and government subsidized loans, the majority of financial assistance (at least in the US) comes from private scholarships and endowments paid for by donors. Why should they be compelled to make scholarships or other financial awards more ‘fair?’

    It’s their money and, as such, they can give it to whomever they choose for any reason they so choose. How is this not the end of the story?

    -Neil

    • Compelled? Who said anything about being compelled? I don’t think anyone should compel the NAACP to cut out their stupid and offensive Spirit awards, either. They just reinforce bigotry, that’s all–just like the scholarships.

  3. Jack,
    Says who? Scholarships are private money given away by private donors to a student who meets a set criteria; not at all akin to affirmative action of racial quota policies (which are mandatory). How is bigoted to pay all or part of a student’s tuition because of their race? Race-based scholarships don’t elevate on group or another, they’re simply a way for individuals to “give back” to a community they feel is in need of help. Couldn’t one just as easily argue that merit-based scholarships discriminate unfairly against the stupid and unmotivated (and, in fact, there are those who claim just that)? Do scholarships to low-income students likewise promote hatred of the poor? What makes merit the only ethical criteria to use when deciding who’s worthy of aid?

    If you were to carry this logic out to the extreme, then it would seem that ALL charity not soley based on merit or percieved need could be considered unethical as they unfairly favor and give advantage to one group over another arbitrarily. Thoughts?

    -Neil

    • But of course, I wouldn’t carry it to the extreme.

      My view is influenced by what I saw as part of the admissions process in a law school, where Asian-American applicants sailed in because they were a minority and got financial aid too, while white males with better grades and lesser resources were rejected.

      I accepted affirmative action as a social necessity in the 70’s, even though I was a direct victim of it in my last chance to practice law as a prosecutor. Now, I think favoring otherwise “protected classes” with special scholarships is soft bigotry, and keeps us from embracing neutral, fair standards.

      • Heh, the first full paragraph seems so surreal nowadays. At least said-surrealism shows that minorities in America, at least in the long term, are capable of achieving a decent socio-economic status even without affirmative action.

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