Whites-Only Scholarship Revisited

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