The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

74° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Ethnic food for thought

Here’s a shocker: I was pretty upset when Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize.

Obama is a “”halfer”” like me. That means every time he does something particularly exceptional (like becoming a senator, becoming the president or receiving an international peace prize), the bar for my ethnic subgenre gets set a little higher.

It’s exhausting. With such a high standard to be up against, our ambitions, goals and dreams just become moot in comparison. I guess I could switch my major, become an astronaut and hope to simultaneously become the first black, Mexican and Honduran man on the moon, but I’m pretty sure they’ve already got someone lined up for that. Needless to say, my options are limited.

At least the treatment goes both ways. The president is constantly plagued by detractors who accuse him of achieving success and recognition solely based on race. Likewise, we “”ethnics”” are safe in assuming that not everyone is satisfied with all the free money we get to go college based on the color of our skin.

This reality hasn’t stopped a myriad of ethnically diverse students from getting boatloads of free money to go to college, but as the memory of slavery gets older and our nation’s leadership gets darker, it’s only a matter of time before the ethical logic behind this academic institution becomes obviously funky.

Schools give scholarships based on race in order to increase the ethnic diversity of their student population. In doing so, they create a more inclusive and socially just environment where students of different races and credos can finally get the chance to study, learn, drink and sleep together.

Innocuous, right? No, that’s where the problems start. Based on this reasoning, any ethnic minority who grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and developed primarily “”Caucasian”” values no longer fits the mold of an ethnic student who adds new perspectives to the classroom based on his or her exotic childhood experiences.

Of course, they get the money anyway. 

Without some universal yardstick with which to measure cultural diversity, race-based scholarships are awarded simply for the race itself, at the detriment of equally or more academically successful students.

Consequentially, we’re stuck in another icky situation of some students getting money based off their skin color while others do not, and then we aren’t much better off than we were a few decades ago.

The alternative, of course, is ludicrous. There is no fair and objective way to determine the numerical worth of “”cultural diversity”” a student has the potential to add to a student population. I can only imagine how hilarious a test to determine ethnic legitimacy might read: “”MC Hammer was reputed to be 2 Legit … a) 2 wear parachute pants b) 2 quit c) to go bankrupt d) none of the above.””

So what’s society to do? 

The solution to this problem, like every other glaring social issue, can probably only be solved by a lot of rich, powerful people dying and younger, more progressive people inheriting their influence.

In the meantime, we can take some steps in the right direction by making active decisions in changing the discourse, the way we conceptualize and speak, about race-based scholarships:

1) None of the rhetoric used for or against race-based scholarships should ever use the word “”deserve”” again. “”Deserve”” implies some moral entitlement for the recipient of a race-based scholarship to receive their award. 

Regardless of how hard your childhood was and how much you sacrificed to get here, someone exists with a worse childhood who would have sacrificed more to get to where you are and didn’t get the chance because of circumstance and the arbitrary standards the universities of this country used to determine who to give money to.

 

2) For those of you who are resentful of the idea of others receiving more money than you because of the color of their skin, be mindful that they had no choice in the matter. Decide for yourself if you, in their situation, would turn down the money out of the same sense of self-righteousness you use to justify your resentment.

 

3) For those of you who have received scholarships based on the color of your skin, refrain from acting or speaking like you are special or better than anyone else, and not just the beneficiary of a lot of lucky breaks you probably aren’t even aware of.

Even if we as a society acknowledge that the concept of race-based scholarships is inherently self-contradictory and unfair, it won’t make the scholarships go away. But it might be a little easier to talk about them, and clear some hatred from the room while we figure out what will.

— Remy Albillar is a junior majoring in English. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

More to Discover
Activate Search