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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/9/11

About Those Whites-Only Scholarships

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On Sunday afternoon, I sat down with one of my favorite race bloggers, Tami Harris (What Tami Said) to discuss the Colorlines report that "a group of white male college students in Texas have taken their antipathy to new levels by offering scholarships exclusively for white males."According to the Colorlines story, William Lake, an MBA candidate at Texas State University in San Marcos and treasurer of the nonprofit Former Majority Association for Equality, the group that's offering the scholarship, white men are "one group that just doesn't have any support."
"We saw opportunities for just about every single demographic, as far as pausing for college goes, except for this one," Lake told Talking Points Memo. "We're just providing one for this demographic. Why shouldn't there be money available for these people?" Read more at Colorlines... 
The following is a transcript of our discussion, edited for clarity and better flow. [The editor's notes are our additions during the editing process]. We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Tami: What bothers me most about this scholarship for white guys is that it demonstrates a lack of understanding for what "minority" scholarships are about.

Mikhail: Sure it does. It fails to acknowledge the reality that students of color face obstacles to success that white students don't, which is not to say that some white students don't also have obstacles -- they do -- but those obstacles are not related to their whiteness.

Tami: Right. Scholarships are not extra goodies offered to students of color or female students. Scholarships are meant to mitigate the imbalances in opportunity caused by race, gender, etc.

Mikhail: If we agree on the above, then the implication is that it is reasonable to have race-targeted scholarships for students of color and not for white students.

Tami: Yes.  It is also interesting that the difficulties faced by at least two of the men who are the face of this scholarship have nothing to do with their race. One had a criminal record. One was a poor student.

Mikhail: ...and I'd like to see educational opportunities (including scholarships) be available for members of those groups too!

Tami: Yes. Why not a scholarship for students with criminal records? But why does that student see whiteness at the root of his problem, I wonder?

Mikhail: The answer that comes to mind is that this student (and presumably many others) resent what they see as unfair advantages available to students of color. Basically, they see the policy response...but not the reason that the policy response is necessary.

Tami: I also have a problem with this Former Majority business. [Editor's note: The nonprofit offering the scholarship is called the Former Majority Association for Equality.]

Mikhail: How so?

Tami: The problems of POCs and women are not necessarily related to minority status. Indeed, aren't women slightly more than 50 percent of the population now? [Editor's note: We checked: women comprise 50.7% of the U.S. population according to he 2009 U.S. census data.] Our problems are related to racism, sexism and bias. These things can exist regardless of minority status. (See, for instance, apartheid-era South Africa).

Mikhail: I agree that it's not JUST minority status. Incidentally, women though just slightly more than 50% of population, comprise a much higher percentage of college students and an even higher percentage of college graduates [Editor's note: Women have represented about 57 percent of enrollments at American colleges since at least 2000, according to a recent report by the American Council on Education]. Numerically, men are an under-represented group in college. There are even some discussions happening (I don't know how seriously to take them.) about the possibility of an affirmative action program for male college applicants.

Tami: The scholarships these guys compare their scholarship to exist to mitigate imbalances of opportunity and social power. I would love to hear one of these students demonstrate how POCs and women have access to greater opportunity and power than white American men.

Mikhail: I don't think that kind of demonstration is possible, but they are not thinking in those terms. As I said, I think they see the scholarships but not the reason those scholarships are necessary.

Tami: You make a good point re: men being underrepresented in colleges. What is the prevailing wisdom on why that is? I suspect that this particular scholarship does not address the problem.

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Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D., is a teaching associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches Psychology of Race and Ethnicity and courses on restorative justice.

Since 2009, Mikhail has been studying and working with conflict, particularly via Restorative Circles (a restorative practice developed in Brazil by Dominic Barter and associates) and other restorative responses to conflict. Together with Elaine Shpungin, he now supports schools, organizations, and workplaces in developing restorative strategies for engaging conflict, building conflict facilitation skills and evaluating the outcomes associated with restorative responses via Conflict 180.

In addition to conflict and restorative (more...)

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