A new nonprofit organization out of Texas State University in nearby San Marcos is offering five scholarships worth $500. To qualify, you must maintain a 3.0 GPA, demonstrate financial need and, oh yeah, be a white male.
The scholarship comes courtesy of the Former Majority Association for Equality, a nonprofit started by Texas State junior Colby Bohannan.
In 2001, Bohannan enrolled at Texas State and, like many college students, found the cost of tuition to be prohibitively expensive. While searching for financial aid, Bohannan became frustrated with the relatively high number of scholarships available for minorities in contrast to the lack of any for white men like himself.
So Bohannan enlisted in the Army, served in Iraq and returned to Texas State, this time on the GI Bill. Now, Bohannan and his nine-member board want to help others formerly in his position with scholarships exclusively for white males.
Let’s get this out of the way right now. From what I can tell, Bohannan is not a racist. This fact is apparent from reading the association’s online literature, which denounces any white supremacist agenda, and from listening to Bohannan answer questions from the media. He is, however, extremely misguided.
There’s a reason scholarships exist for minorities. In education specifically, racial inequalities exist at almost every juncture. From preschool to college, black and hispanic students receive lower grades, drop out more frequently and graduate at lower rates. Scholarships and favorable admissions policies aim to combat these systemic inequalities faced by minorities. If you doubt these assertions, a quick search on the subject will yield an extensive catalog of substantiating research.
White men, on the other hand, have never had a problem getting into college. For the first 73 years of its existence, UT-Austin only allowed whites to attend. It wasn’t until 1956 that the Board of Regents decided to integrate the undergraduate program and not until 1964 that housing was fully integrated.
Sure, there are economically disadvantaged white men out there who are deserving of a scholarship. But whether Bohannan wants to admit or even realizes it, these men don’t have to face the same level of discrimination that would warrant a scholarship designed exclusively for them. Worse, Bohannan’s scholarship denigrates the very real plight of minorities in this country.
But it’s apparent from listening to Bohannan speak that he doesn’t understand any of this. That’s why, again, I say he’s not a racist but misguided.
First there’s the name: Former Majority Association for Equality. Despite what the association may believe, whites are still very much the majority in this country. According to census data, whites make up 65.1 percent of the population, compared to 15.8 percent for Hispanics and 12.9 percent for blacks. As for equality, the U.S. Department of Education reports that 71.8 percent of bachelor’s degrees are conferred to whites, compared to 7.9 percent for Hispanics and 9.8 percent for blacks. Having juxtaposed those numbers, there is an inequality here, but it’s not for whites.
Next, again, there’s the name. As an advertising student, I would be remiss not to point out the branding problem inherent in the organization’s acronym, which alternately does and does not include the word “for.” While the application says FMAFE, the adjacent logo says FMAE. You can even click on “About F.M.A.F.E.” on the website’s menu and have it take you to a page titled “About F.M.A.E.”
Then there’s the application. Its requirements state that you must be male and “no less than 25-percent Caucasian.” How you prove this, I don’t know. But were he still a college student, President Barack Obama would be eligible. Also, the second essay question asks the following: “How can you improve your own habits to better exemplify a fair and strong leadership role in your future?” I’ve read that sentence about five times and still don’t know exactly what it means.
Finally, there’s the way Bohannan handles himself in the media. In an interview with CNN’s Christine Romans, Bohannan responds to Romans’ question regarding historical inequalities with a wry smirk, stating, “Well, unfortunately, Christine, I wasn’t around 30 years ago.” Oof. Really? Later, in an interview with MSNBC, Bohannan is taken to task by Marc Lamont Hill, a professor of education and African American studies at Columbia University. Bohannan appears flustered as an articulate Hill points out that “being white, itself, is a form of scholarship.”
Why do I point out what may seem like inane details? It’s to show that in every way, Bohannan and the rest of the FMAE are in way over their heads. These aren’t smooth, professional operators of some white supremacist agenda. They are frustrated college kids looking for someone to blame for their problems.
If Bohannan really wants to help students in need, he should drop the oppressed white man act and simply give the money to a deserving applicant irrespective of race or gender.
<em>Curl is an advertising graduate student.<em/>