"Why are all these scholarships for minority groups?" A girl in my classroom once asked. "Just because I'm White doesn't mean my parents are rich," she continued. Apparently, this young woman was not content with the idea that the only people eligible for scholarships being handed out by our professor had to be Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Native American and other minority groups.
No one spoke out against her, and I began to wonder about the advantages and disadvantages of being a member of a minority group.
About two years ago Morgan Freeman, an African-American actor, was finally able to fully fund a high school prom in Charleston, South Carolina. The reason he was going to pay for the prom was not because these kids had done something amazing or had won a special prize. The reason is far more perplexing; at least it was to me. He was offering to pay for the prom with one condition--the school had to host its first integrated prom.
In 1998, Freeman offered to pay for the prom however, his offer was turned down mainly because the White parents did not want "any of those n*****s rubbing up against [their] daughters," according to comment in a published report at the time.
Ten years later, after administration changed, Freeman was able to give the city a lesson in tolerance and the students were able to freely embrace their differences together.
As wild as it may sound, 50 years later African Americans are still segregated in many states in the South. This disadvantage greatly affects the way African Americans are treated and the way Whites influence upcoming generations.
However, like the scholarships, minority groups are also sometimes "given an advantage" when applying to college or even when applying for jobs.
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, which required federal contractors to take "affirmative action" to hire without regard to race, religion and national origin. In 1968, gender was added. This policy helps assure that a person will not be discriminated against because of their ethnicity, race, religion and sex, when applying for a job.
Affirmative action has also helped many minority students attend college. (Although a number of decisions over the years have chipped away at various aspects of the law, i.e., Adaran and Bakke).
In 2003, a Supreme Court decision also curtailed the breadth of how universities could consider race as a factor in admitting students. It strictly ruled that giving extra points to a minority group member is unconstitutional. Some states, including California, have gone as far as passing a constitutional amendment banning affirmative action.
California's Proposition 209, which prohibits the use of affirmative action, played a significant role in reducing the African American freshman enrollment rate, particularly in the University of California system. But, in spite of that legislation, affirmative action is still an extensive policy that helps minority students attend college. Universities want and need diversity and although it's illegal, there is still a quota that the university must reach when admitting minority students.
According to RAND California, 48 percent of students enrolled in the California State University system are in a minority group while 36 percent of the student enrollment is White. In the University of California system, there are about 91,000 minority students enrolled compared to 57,000 White students. However, the majority of minority students enrolled are Hispanics and Asians. Only 6,000 of the 91,000 students enrolled are African-American.
Whether minority groups are given an "advantage" or "special treatment" in college or not, we still have to face the world outside of college. And as harsh as the "real world" may be or sound, the only way to face it is with a headstrong manner and with a "color-blind" state of mind.