A club of College Republicans at the University of California-Berkeley is making a lot of enemies this week for its plan to hold a bake sale in which customers will be charged based on race and gender. Prices of baked goods are as follows: $2 for white men, $1.50 for Asian men, $1 for Latino men, $0.75 for black men, and $0.25 for Native American men; all women will get $0.25 off those prices.
The bake sale is a form of satirical protest against pending affirmative action legislation that would allow California universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin during the admissions process. Minority students get "preferential treatment" at the bake sale just as they do during the admissions process.
Ignoring the fact that it's probably one of most unoriginal and tired protest ideas of all time -- opponents of affirmative action have used the exact same tactic for years -- the organizers are using it to make an excellent point.
As many people who find the the bake sale protest offensive and insulting have commented on Facebook, the bake sale is racist and discriminatory -- but so is affirmative action. Its proponents assume (and much of the time are correct) that minorities in this country experience socio-economic disadvantages compared to white people. And so they try to legislate an even playing field in the college admissions process, instead of focusing on curing the root of the problem: creating greater opportunity and equality before people get to college.
Of course, the problem with this particular bake sale at UC Berkley is that it's been perceived as a bunch of white kids complaining about reverse discrimination. And it's no wonder: Charging customers by race and gender is a one-sided, juvenile response to a very complex conversation. It puts the focus on the "unfairness" of affirmative action instead of acknowledging inequalities in society and opening up the conversation to more productive solutions.
But I agree with the racist bake sale to the extent that it gets people talking about the fact that affirmative action can have a negative impact on society: Ironically, the policy often contributes to -- and sometimes even increases -- racism by instilling resentment in white people over the "preferential" treatment that minorities receive. Not only that, it creates the unfortunate and unfair situation in which we question whether minority people at good schools and in high positions did so on their own merit or were given a free pass.
At the very least, this bake sale will get people talking.
Image via Rachel From Cupcakes Take the Cake/Flickr