Whites-Only Scholarship Revisited

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RNC
Chairman Ed Gillespie has much to worry about: a soaring deficit,
low approval ratings for President Bush, and an amnesty program
that has Bush's conservative base fuming. So what is Gillespie's
next move? Writing to a 20-year-old College Republican. His letter
scolded me for sponsoring a much-publicized "whites-only"
scholarship, a political gesture designed as a parody to protest
affirmative action and race-based scholarships handed out by federally-subsidized
universities.

Gillespie
expressed dismay at the "exclusionary message" conveyed
by the white scholarship and proclaimed the GOP "the party
of equal opportunity for all." Alas, the Party Chairman missed
the point of the "whites-only" scholarship. Federally
subsidized universities engage in "exclusionary" practices
all the time under the banner of affirmative action and through
race-based scholarships offered only to "students of color."
That fact is obvious even to casual readers, which suggests that
Gillespie was disingenuous. Why isn't Gillespie outraged at discrimination
against qualified white students who are rejected because a minority
quota needs to be filled? If he truly supported equal opportunity,
he would mount a campaign to block affirmative action.

Gillespie's
impetuous words reveal that the GOP is once again willing to alienate
its conservative base, just as it has with profligate spending,
Bush's illegal alien guest worker program, and shunning Tom McClintock
in California's gubernatorial race. Gillespie reverted to political
cowardice, choosing to worship at the altar of political expediency.
Political pundit Sean Hannity chose the same path. Hannity thought
there might be a better way to protest affirmative actionu2014an asinine
statement because discussion on the topic made it all the way to
the show that he co-hosts, "Hannity & Colmes." Take
a look at some other news agencies that covered the scholarship:
The NY Times, The Washington Post, USA Today,
CNN, and the Fox News Channelu2014and that's just naming the heavy hitters.
Apparently the scholarship did its job by generating media attention
and prompting discussion on college campuses all across the country.

In
a similar vein, Patricia Morgan, chairperson of the Rhode Island
GOP, called the white scholarship "disturbing" and said
it had "racist overtones" because it asked applicants
to write an essay on why they were proud of being white. Here's
my objection: if it's not racist to be proud of one's black heritage
(which it's not), then why is it racist to be proud of one's white
heritage? This double standard equates white with pejorative. Morgan
would never tell the head of the Rhode Island NAACP, Cliff Montiero,
that he's a racist for taking pride in his black heritage, but she'll
gladly tell a white student at RWU that he can't be proud of his
heritage. "We have zero tolerance for racists in the Republican
Party," Morgan added. I agree. She needs to explain, though,
why it's racist to be proud of one's Caucasian identity. Does she
automatically assume that all whites are rich and powerful? Are
those who made out well denied the privilege of taking pride in
their heritage or accomplishments, when persons of color face no
such censure? Morgan also blamed the scholarship for "damag[ing]
the effort [to] get minorities to take a hard look at our Republican
Party and realize that we can meet their needs."

Are
Republicans now supposed to champion liberal policy agendas, such
as affirmative action, in an attempt to court the minority vote?
Or should Republicans engender a minority base by supporting core
conservative principles, such as individual initiative and individual
dependence? Anyway, if a single college student can damage efforts
by the Republican Party to branch out to minorities, then the RIGOP
is a joke.

Chicago
Tribune columnist Clarence Page wrote a column on the scholarship
and blasted me as well. Page asks, "How does he square accepting
a scholarship for nonwhites with his opposition to preferential
treatment for nonwhites?" Simple, Clarence: as a conservative,
I support private organizations such as the Hispanic College Fund,
The United Negro College Fund, and other groups that are privately
funded and ethnically-based that award scholarships to members of
their own communities, a position fully in line with private property
rights and freedom of association. However, I am opposed to federally
subsidized institutions creating two classes of persons by imposing
different standards on them. Either such universities should compile
race-based scholarships for all students, or they should award scholarships
on the basis of merit alone.

I
have been called a "sell-out" and a "self-hater",
although the reasons why are sketchy at best. NYC Councilman Charles
Barren said that Latinos nationwide should be ashamed of me. Deborah
Mathis of the Gannett News Service said, "[Mattera] gives aid
and comfort to those who might take his tan skin or Spanish surname
as a flag of inferiority. Or who might think he got into Roger Williams
as a favor to some idea about diversity, and [that the school] wouldn’t
[have] give[n] him the time of day had he not joined their denunciations
and offered his validation." Such comments indicate
the shallow presumption that all minorities must think alike, as
if doctors stamped "liberal" on the birth certificates
of all minority persons, or as if being a member of a minority group
were like joining a club from which one could be evicted.

Providence
Journal columnist Bob Kerr threw in his two cents as well, unleashing
skewed attacks and logical fallacies to draw attention away from
his weak argument. Kerr wrote, "we should bring back the military
draft and give students something really urgent to think about"
and asserted that the College Republicans have "Ignore[d] decades
of bloody sacrifice and insult[ed] the memory of true American heroes."
(Even his tangents have tangents.) Extending his "logic"
further would mean that all protesters of affirmative action should
serve the military in Iraq. Farewell, dialogue; R.I.P., freedom
of speech. Perhaps Mr. Kerr will deliver your eulogy.

Despite
Gillespie's objections, my group will continue to use the Republican
symbol because we stand for principle, not for political pragmatism.
The word "Republican" will become meaningless if our leadership
continues to compete with Democrats on who can be the better liberal.
Our Party should be proud to unite against affirmative action. If
you cannot stand behind Republican principles, or if you cannot
defend them properly in the face of liberalism, then you should
not be a leader or spokesman for the Republican Party.

This
year at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Alan Keyes
warned the audience against voting for President Bush as the lesser
of two evils. According to Keyes, conservatives shouldn't have that
mindset because "evil" is not being eradicated but is
still being positioned in a place of power. Gillespie and company
shouldn't be surprised when conservatives sit out the next election
and watch George W. receive the same fate his father did.

March
4, 2004

Jason Mattera [send him mail],
recently named the top conservative student activist in the country
by the Young America’s Foundation, was named Best College Republican
State Chairman in 2003, and is a junior at Roger Williams University,
Bristol, RI.


        
        

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