As the United States is becoming more diverse on various levels such as socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, or race, the changes in the apparent demographics have yielded an opinion among white people that they are becoming a minority and are not treated with as much societal leeway as actual minority races. A specific instance of the negative perception of white people and their position in society is the advantages minorities seem to be given over white people regarding education. The frustration regarding access to academic benefits reflects the frustration of the general white population, and studies have shown that the truth is actually very different from how white people reportedly perceive reality.
The Misconception of Demographics
Racial equality has been a perpetual battle throughout history in the United States, and although racial equality has no doubt improved, there seems to be a rise of negative feelings from the white demographic as new policies and legal protections are introduced for historically oppressed races. Especially with the recent influx of racial equality movements and increased recognition for the achievements of people of color, there has been a growing upset from a portion of the white demographic who feel that they are being neglected as a race.
A study conducted in 1991 revealed that both blacks and whites tend to incorrectly estimate the black population because they are influenced by and make generalizations based on their personal experiences (Sigelman). However, while black people who were polled for this study were more likely to not offer an estimation, most white people who were polled significantly overestimated the size of the black population. Ultimately, people who interacted with more blacks were more likely to provide staggeringly high percentages for what they believed to be the population of black people. This feeling of being a minority carries into the realm of education for white people as they begin to apply for scholarships and other forms of financial aid. Because people often depend on some form of financial aid for higher education, the conversation regarding racial disparity garnered attention in the academic field.
How Scholarships Reflect the Perception of Demographics?
Scholarships are a forever debated issue regarding the requirements and methods for distribution, regardless of race. A number of merit-based scholarships are available at the state level throughout the United States. For example, states such as Georgia, Louisiana, and Massachusetts offer full coverage of tuition based on GPA, but other states such as Alaska, Kentucky, and Tennessee offer partial tuition as a reward for qualifying GPAs (Farrell). Merit-based scholarships continue to generate tough discussions surrounding the recipient population of their rewards as states attempt to keep up with the rapidly rising demand of both eligible students and increasing tuition costs. Although there are several opportunities for students to receive scholarships without providing their race, there is still a feeling relayed by some white people that white students do not receive equal academic benefits because of their race.
The creation of “whites-only” scholarships has created a new discussion regarding the legitimacy of the basis of such scholarships. The creators of “whites-only” scholarships claim that there is a lack of scholarships available for white people (Kantrowitz). However, statistics based on the types of private scholarships claiming to remain equal but are aimed to benefit white students show that the requirements for many of these scholarships disproportionately discriminate against the black population. These scholarships can be based on national origin, geography, the field of study, and religion, but these categories benefit white students as the options available are typically historically aligned with the identities of white people. For example, a scholarship based on Croatian heritage is tailored for white people because black people just are not from Croatia and are not likely to have Croatian blood in them. Ultimately, the perception white people have of the size of the black population perpetuates the problems that affirmative action initiatives and merit-based programs are trying to combat.
A Slow Road to Acceptance
While analyses of the statistics regarding the distribution of scholarships have proven that whites are not a minority when it comes to the college demographics, the feeling expressed by some white people that they are a minority group and socially disadvantaged comes down to the individual and generalized perception of the number of black people in communities. In the past, whites have been the pillars of society, but as historic progression is made regarding racial equality and representation, white groups are seeing the changes as something suffocating as they are still getting used to an increasingly diverse population.