A student at Roger Williams University named Jason Mattera, 20, has been in the press recently because he is the President of the Young Republicans Club on campus and the club is offering a scholarship for which only white students are eligible, a move they say is designed to protest affirmative action. What makes Mr. Mattera different is that he is of Puerto Rican descent and is and has been the recipient of numerous scholarship awards given out by the Hispanic College Fund, a Washington D.C.-based organization run predominately by and exclusively for Hispanics.
Mr. Mattera says the Young Republicans are parodying minority scholarships. The application for the $250 award requires an essay on “why you are proud of your white heritage” and a recent picture to “confirm whiteness.” “Evidence of bleaching will disqualify applicants,” says the application, issued by the university’s College Republicans. A recent quote from Mr. Mattera on CNN had him saying that “We think that if you want to treat someone according to character and how well they achieve academically, then skin color shouldn’t really be an option,” he said. “Many people think that coming from a white background you’re automatically privileged, you’re automatically rich and your parents pay full tuition. That’s just not the case.”
Although I respect Mr. Mattera’s right to voice his beliefs, he is clearly wrong in his opinions regarding minority scholarships and affirmative action. And it is not because of that tired old saw regarding the injustice and discrimination that minorities have suffered in the United States–although there is that. The reason that Mr. Mattera is wrong is simply a matter of competitiveness. America has a history of assisting minority groups that are at a competitive disadvantage to better compete in the marketplace. For example, the United States has laws to insure that physically disabled people can have wheelchair and other forms of disability access to important goods, services, and jobs; there are taxpayer subsidies worth tens of billions of dollars each year given to help smaller farmers compete against large corporations and large American farmers to compete against agricultural products from third world nations; there are tariffs against some foreign goods and services designed to assist domestic companies to compete against low-priced foreign goods and services; and there are export subsidies to assist American companies to be more competitive internationally.
Affirmative action, including scholarships for minority groups that are at an educational disadvantage in American society, is another such assistance that is or should be designed to assist minority groups like Hispanic Americans better compete in a global market place. For what are college degrees except a way to compete more effectively against other job seekers?
Hispanic Americans recently surpassed African Americans to become the largest minority group in the United States, yet Hispanic Americans who are predominately of Mexican descent have the lowest penetration of any minority group in higher education in the nation. Hispanic Americans should and need to be provided with educational assistance up to and including educational grants to better compete against the non-Hispanic white majority. These competitiveness subsidies–if I may–are a just and desirable activity, not only for Hispanic Americans but for all Americans. Change is possible, just look at the green movement. As we all know, there is nothing more expensive than ignorance, and America will not continue to succeed without the full participation of its minority groups in all segments of American life and culture.
And therein lies the crux, when many non-hispanic whites loudly proclaim that they are being discriminated against for being white by not having the same affirmative action or scholarships that minorities have, then the answer to their complaints is that they are not in a group that needs the assistance. Individually, they may need the help like we all do occasionally, and there are programs available to assist such students, regardless of their background. But to complain that they are being discriminated against is just plain wrong. Non-Hispanic whites are not being discriminated against, they are just not being targeted for additional assistance because they as a group already hold the reigns of political and economic power in this county. This is why Jason Mattera is wrong, as well as being outrageously hypocritical.