Thursday, November 23, 2006

Racially based scholarships

This article on got me a trifle perturbed: "Whites Only Scholarship Creates Outrage". In summary, the Boston University College Republicans are offering a $250 scholarship--to apply you have to have a certain GPA, write a couple of essays, and be at least one-quarter Caucasian. The president of the BU College Republicans freely admits he wants to start a dialogue about racial preference. Of course this has created a mini-firestorm in the PC universe. Here's my reaction to a few paragraphs from the story:
"It's a poor way to talk about affirmative action," said David Coreas, the 21-year-old senior who is president of the Latino fraternity Phi Iota Alpha at BU.
Maybe it is a poor way to talk about affirmative action, but notice the speaker's position: he is the president of the Latino fraternity. Do you really think a fraternity that labeled itself "the Caucasian fraternity of such-and-thus" would even survive in today's culture? Why is it okay for Latinos and not Caucasians?
"We have to look at the situation honestly," he [Coreas] said. "Caucasians tend to have a higher per capita income than Latinos and other minorities. We have to have scholarships to survive."
OH! So it has to do with poverty, not race! Okay, then, I have no argument with the idea of helping lower-income families send their children to college--let's base the formally racial scholarships on need rather than race. But if that's the best argument he's got for having racially-based scholarships...

Our society has laws against racial discrimination--we obviously need them, as we are pretty bad at policing ourselves sometimes. But either the laws apply to everyone or the laws should apply to no-one. If someone can offer a scholarship to only those with Latino roots (or African-American roots, or Asian roots, or whatever), then it should be entirely unexceptional that someone else could offer a scholarship only to those with Caucasian roots.


Anonymous said...

Latino Fraternities were created for the same reason there are Black Fraternities, Jewish Fraternities, and Catholic Fraternities. Because White Fraternities (when you are in the majority you do not have to label yourself) would not admit non white, jewish, or catholic members.

All culturally based greek organizations while promoting certain ideals all open to all men regardless of race, creed, or color.

Bradley Ross said...

Saying you are Catholic or Jewish or deaf or Chilean tells me something useful about you. Telling me you are black or Latino or purple gives me absolutely no useful information, though it might be a starting point for some guesses.

I recognize that there may have been valid historical reason for creating a race-centered fraternity. But I think those days are in the past. It is time to let such things go in our present; they only serve now to artificially divide us.

Anonymous said...

Saying that culturally based organizations are "race-centered" just shows that you do not understand.

Latino/Hispanics are an ethnic group. Not a race.

These groups exist to promote cultural awareness, in a country where the are given the short shrift. They are not race centered in anyway. Furthermore, how does someone informing you that they pertain to a certain ethnic group (i.e. Latino) not tell you anything useful?

It this kind of myopia, that just proves the opposite of your position.

Bradley Ross said...

I think we're crossing signals here because we have a disagreement over terminology. Just to be clear, I am not opposed to like-people gathering together for cultural reasons. Furthermore, freedom of association is very important to me.

This goes against common usage, but I don't think that "black/African American" or "Latino/Hispanic" are useful ethnic groupings. The umbrellas are too broad to tell me anything useful about the person without getting further information.

What does Barack Obama share in common with Jesse Jackson? Not much, by virtue of their dark skin. Tell me they are Democrats and I actually have useful information about them. Tell me they are Americans and I have useful information. But they don't share a common black-skin culture heritage that defines who they are.

In other words, I don't think it is very helpful to clump people together based on the color of their skin. Clarence Thomas and Al Sharpton should make the point clear.

Ethnic identity may have its uses on a macro scale, but when it comes to learning anything about an individual, it doesn't tell me much.

What is it that binds all Latinos together? Is it language? No, Latinos speak Spanish, Portuguese, French, Quechua, Aymara, Nahuatl, Mayan languages, GuaranĂ­, Italian, English, German, Welsh, Dutch, Haitian Creole, and more according to Wikipedia.

Tell me you're Mexican and I at least know something about you. Tell me you're Latino and I know roughly which quarter of the globe you come from. Not too helpful.

Bradley Ross said...

BTW, anonymous. Thanks for the comments and thanks for your respectful tone. It seems to be an increasingly rare thing to find civil disagreement and I appreciate what you bring to the table.

Bradley Ross said...

DKL at Mormon Mentality has written a great piece about this scholarship controversy as well. He is reacting to the same quote by David Coreas that bugged Keryn.