The College Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley held a controversial bake sale which priced goods according to the patron’s race and gender. Whites were charged $2, Asians $1.50, Latinos $1, Blacks $0.75, and $0.25 for Native Americans. Women of any ethnicity were charged an additional twenty-five cents less for their purchases.
Students intended to conduct the social experiment in opposition to students lobbying California Governor Jerry Brown to pass SB 105, a bill that would make it legal for University of California and California State schools to weigh the gender and ethnic backgrounds of applicants as factors in their admissions decisions. (Affirmative action is currently illegal in public university admissions under California law.)
A Facebook advertisement for the event mocked, “You have the OPPORTUNITY to increase DIVERSITY and student VOICES by buying some PASTRIES and helping redistribute wealth for SOCIAL JUSTICE through BAKED GOODS… (emphasis not mine).”
While the sale is not the first of its kind by College Republican groups on college campuses, students, University officials, and many people across the nation immediately criticized it. Others have praised it for facilitating discussions about diversity.
In response to the bake sale, many Berkeley students staged a protest of their own, lying on the ground in the school’s Sproul Plaza dressed in all-black-everything attire and holding signs that read things like “Don’t UC Us Now?”
Well, the answer to that question is “yes.” Not only do the College Republicans see the minority population at UC Berkeley, they see them, hear them, feel them, and most importantly, they are afraid of them.
Fear makes people do idiotic things. Fear makes millions of people insist that the President of the United States was born in another country, practiced Islam (as if that were a crime), and was academically unqualified to attend his institutions of higher learning. Fear makes legislators pass draconian laws to detain and remove people seeking a better life for themselves. Fear makes some of those same lawmakers pass legislation that limits a woman’s right to decide what will and will not take place from her womb to the boardroom.
Simply put, people do not like that which they feel they cannot relate to or do not understand. Different backgrounds and values suggest different loyalties which send many people into competitive mode. And in a society where we are taught that “money talks” and that the basic principle of economics is one of scarcity, competition is never a good thing (even though they say it is).
To the Berkeley College Republicans (much like the non-college Republicans) increased diversity somehow spells disadvantage for them. It means that they will have to pay two dollars for a cupcake, when someone else only has to pay twenty-five cents. If that means that fewer of them can have cupcakes because not everyone in their group can afford to spend two dollars, then we have competition and controversy.(Nevermind the ones who have twenty dollars, but just don’t want to spend two dollars because no one else has to do so.)
It means that somehow “disadvantaged” people have gotten over on them.(Tell that to the students who paid to get over on everyone in the latest SAT cheating scandal. Poor folks aren’t the only ones scheming, huh?) I’m not even going to address the students of color who participated in the bake sale, but let’s just say that denial (particularly self-denial) is the first sign of a larger problem…
They fail to acknowledge (or no longer want to acknowledge) that the people with whom they are so outraged for having to pay less actually made the cupcakes and have been unable to buy them for centuries because certain people owned the rights to the recipe and inflated the prices. They don’t see that by allowing other bakers into the kitchen, it doesn’t mean that they will be pushed out, but instead it means that they will have more and different kinds of baked goods to eat.
( The Berkeley College Republicans seem to like metaphors, so I decided to hit them with a little bit of an extended one for a little bit.)
The truth is, we cannot talk about diversity on college campuses until we talk about the overt expressions of fear and disrespect, otherwise known as racism, that we witness every day. How can we expect college students to do and know better when we watch their predecessors plot to stall the government’s ability to function rather than agree on a budget that will address the needs of the poor? How can we expect them not to have the audacity to disrespect their fellow students when we watched a member of Congress shout “you lie” at the leader of the free world?
Instead, we sweep these things under the rug and declare ourselves “post-racial.” Call it whatever you want. All I know is that when it comes to being post-selfish, post-greedy, post-inconsiderate, and post-stupid, we’ve got a long way to go.