Douglass Gross

Some of his best friends were ‘takers.’

In 1920, Lydia C. Chamberlain, a woman from Des Moines who moved to Manhattan, donated her $500,000 estate to create a fellowship at Columbia University. The fellowship had a few restrictions. Notably, recipients were not allowed to study “law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary surgery or theology.” Ha. Seems reasonable. Oh, and the recipients had to be from Iowa and had to move back to Iowa after completing their studies.

This kind of dead-hand control should really not be allowed in our modern, global society, but that’s not why the “Lydia C. Roberts graduate and traveling fellowships” is making news today. It’s making news because the other restriction is that recipients of the fellowship have to be white. “Of the Caucasian race” is the exact formulation.

This isn’t just a story about racism, it’s a story about institutional advantages white people have that some of them pretend to not even be aware of…

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