Berkeley Race Baiting Bake Sale Misses the Point

BlogHer Original Post

[Update: The race-based bake sale was held as scheduled on Tuesday, along with several counter protests, including a Magical Muffins bake sale with different prices for Muggles and Wizards. --Grace]

Want a piece of the pie? It’ll cost you – depending on your race – according to a Republican student group at UC Berkeley. They’re planning to hold a bake sale on Tuesday, September 27, with White males paying full price, and incremental discounts given to Asians, Latinos, Blacks and Native Americans. Oh, and women get a percentage off, too.

What was intended as a publicity stunt protest against California’s SB 185, has gotten attention all right. But students at this famously liberal – and diverse – university aren’t buying it. The student senate convened a special meeting over the weekend to condemn discriminatory actions on campus.

cupcakes

Image Credit: anniehs, via Flickr

You can see the protest organizer on CNN, as well as student reaction from campus Democrats and ethnic student groups, in this video from the campus newspaper, The Daily Californian:

Fifteen years have passed since the state of California, under then-Governor Pete Wilson, passed Proposition 209, which banned public schools and employers from taking an applicant’s race or gender into consideration.

Race Based Bake Sales Not New

The idea of using a bake sale in an attempt to demonstrate unfair race-based admissions standards is not original. This kind of publicity stunt has been pulled at other campuses and even on Fox News, where commentator Jon Stossel held his own bake sale last November. But even Stossel understood a point that the Berkeley College Republicans do not.

If there is a “victim” in race-preferential college admissions, it’s not White males. It’s even been suggested that the proposed diversity policy amounts to affirmative action for Whites. And I’d hazard a guess that with the increasing achievements of girls, female applicants are probably being scrutinized more heavily than males.

Yet the students staging the protest are largely White. And male.

As an Asian woman (and an alum of UC Berkeley) I understand that there are serious inequities in American society. They go beyond taunts and teasing to pervasive institutional biases in everything from early education to employment.

It’s too bad that the young Republicans took such a gimmicky and insensitive route in trying to bring up discussion about this topic. Because having witnessed Affirmative Action 1.0, I’m aware that it’s not a foolproof system.

Affirmative Action? Or...

Purely race-based affirmative action is flawed. It doesn’t take into account disparities in income, educational opportunities, institutional discrimination, language barriers and a host of other inequities within certain races. For example, Cord Jefferson recently wrote on GOOD that Ivy League schools routinely game their race statistics to appear as if they are admitting healthy numbers of minorities, including Blacks. But if you look closely at the demographics of the students, they are not the historically oppressed, but wealthy and relatively recent African immigrants.

Solving racial inequities needs to start much earlier than college— in creating a public school system which adequately teaches all kids, no matter their race or income-level, and prepares them for higher education. But until that happens, we can’t just do nothing and effectively close off any opportunities for our most disadvantaged populations.

SB 185 is waiting approval by California’s Govenor Jerry Brown.

Can we talk honestly and respectfully about racial inequity and how to address it?

Race and Ethnicity Section Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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