One in three blacks lives below the poverty line, one half of all black children live below the poverty line, one half of all black children are raised in single-parent households, and one in four black men between the ages of 20 and 29 is under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system on any given day.

Given these statistics, it is not surprising that blacks constitute less than 6 percent of those receiving academic degrees in a given year. For those blacks fortunate enough to pursue higher education, financial assistance should, if anything, be increased.

Surely Michael Williams, who seeks to place further limits on the availability of minority scholarships, is unaware of the facts.


I am writing in response to the article "Minority-Scholarship Curb Under Review" {front page, Dec. 14}. I agree with the administration that "race-exclusive" scholarships are discriminatory and in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When I was attending college, I had to take out loans and work three jobs and got only a small portion of a senatorial scholarship. Minorities attending my college had more scholarship programs available to them because they were minorities.

I strongly believe that race should not play a factor and that there should be a more equitable way of awarding scholarships to people of all races. One solution would be to change the financial aid forms, scholarship request forms, etc., and to delete the part that asks what race you are. This question appears on almost every form, and the forms also ask what sex one is. Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race or sex. Colleges and universities should not be allowed to, either.

By deleting the race and sex question from the forms, admission and scholarship awards could be distributed more equitably on the basis of financial need or scholastic aptitude.


Colorblind, need-based fellowships are a wonderful idea for a racially/ethnically homogeneous society. But we do not live in one. Our inequalities and identities are reflected not only in differences of income and wealth. They are also a function of race, ethnicity and gender -- handicap too. This is the understanding upon which calls to model multi-cultural academic institutions are based. They are also based on an understanding of our nation's rapidly changing racial demography.

Of course, there are dangers in placing too much emphasis on race or on other socially relevant categories. Race, ethnic and gender consciousness should not mark all our human interactions. But race-consciousness can play a vital role in increasing the number of minority undergraduate and graduate students and faculty in higher education.

One example of an extraordinarily successful program that could well transform higher education if replicated on a wide scale is the McKnight Black Doctoral Fellowship program in Florida. It is one of several programs, including a pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade program under the aegis of the Florida Endowment Fund for Higher Education. The high retention rate of the McKnight program is related not only to the financial support it provides but also to the bonds of fellowship and determination it nurtures among its African-American doctoral fellows. The fellowship ties that bond stem from the students' shared history as African Americans. These bonds translate not only into a commitment to degree completion but also into a determination to help younger African Americans work for the highest level of academic excellence. It is a working example of Justice Blackmun's notion that, as he wrote in a 1978 opinion, ''to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race.''