How We Separate Race from Culture and Embrace All
The very notion of quantifying racial bloodlines is socially offensive. And let’s face it; the U.S. is a multicultural milieu that defies definition. Minority scholarships are largely defined as those designated for students of Hispanic, African-American, Asian, or Native American ethnicity. But this still does not clear up the confusion.
Does an African American/Native American student qualify for the same scholarships? Do other types of funds exist? How about the Caucasian/Hispanic student; is he or she limited in the minority scholarship arena? And consider the cultural challenges of Arabic and Indian students—they do not technically fit the criteria for traditional minority scholarships in the U.S., but they do fit the multicultural scheme.
How Do You Culturally, Socially, and Racially Identify Yourself?
You may be ¼ Hispanic American and white, but the larger question is, with what background do you most identify? This is the intent behind scholarships that particularly invite students with mixed heritages, or multicultural scholarships.
General minority scholarships typically mention nothing about multi-racial or interracial applicants. So it’s possible that many more students than we realize may be left out. According to U.S. Census statistics individuals choose to “most closely” associate themselves racially in a number of different ways, indicated by census responses. Many individuals respond to questions of race with a write-in “interracial” response. But just as many others of interracial origins choose instead to check off multiple choices in the race category, indicating they associate themselves equally with more than one absolute racial identity. And still the concept of interracial remains muddy.
Why Interracial and Multicultural Scholarships Could Help You
The real purpose of racially founded scholarships is to alleviate the oppression historically present in higher education. Racial inequality exists at all levels, social, political and educational. And colleges and universities rely on racial self-identification the same as does the Census. It’s not so much a student’s racial DNA that matters as much as the associated challenges, including social, political, economic, and educational.
There are a few scholarships that clearly are designed for multi-racial students, check these out for instance:
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs scholarships are hands down the best examples of inter-racial funding. Students must only prove 1⁄4 Native American heritage to apply for government funds. Outside that ¼, you can be African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, or any blend of the above. Requirements include financial need and enrollment in a four-year degree-granting institution, but students in many cases are of multicultural/multi-racial origins.
- Wheaton College has conceived similar criteria for the multi-racial James E. Burr Minority Scholarship. Students must prove 1⁄4 heritage to a minority group, which invites interracial student applications.
- Calvin Theological Seminary, Michigan, features a Multiracial Student Scholarship Fund. The idea is to invite minority students from all backgrounds into a faith-based or ministry career.
What Makes Multicultural Scholarships Different?
Multicultural scholarships are slowly but surely finding a larger audience. They don’t really mean the same as a general minority scholarship and the intent is to put culture and heritage before racial background.
- Utah State University provides a Multicultural Scholars program that offers funds to “underrepresented” students. Of course the biggest requirement is a high GPA and an interest in bio-scientific research.
- Salve Regina University in Rhode Island has traditionally offered their Aquidneck Island Multicultural Scholarship to students from the area that can prove they are a “member of one of the four federally recognized minority groups,” but now they have expanded the criteria to embrace other students “[committed] to diversity and multiculturalism.”
- Ohio University Multicultural Scholarships—Urban Scholars, King/Chavez/Parks Award, and the Templeton Scholars Program—all focus on netting student populations “disproportionately represented” in education and the business world.
Scholarships Embrace our Diversity
Chances are likely that students from interracial backgrounds that are economically and/or socially impeded will be considered appropriate candidates for most minority-centric scholarships. But students from mixed heritage that face cultural barriers are often left out. Multicultural scholarships offer a fresh reminder of just how eclectic our social fabric really is. Scholarships may be called multicultural, multiracial, interracial, or multiethnic, so keep your eyes peeled.
Remember, colleges and universities have no scientific definition of minority, multicultural, or interracial. The associations are mostly based on self-identification. Don’t overlook related scholarship programs such as First-in-Family scholarships. The more open-minded you are, the more powerful your scholarship search.