Racist bake sale devalues diversity
Students of the Berkeley College Republicans at the University of California-Berkeley hosted an unusual bake sale yesterday to express their outrage over an affirmative action-like bill, SB-185, that is currently awaiting California Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.
SB-185 would allow the University of California school system to use, “race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, geographic origin, and household income, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions, so long as no preference is given.” This practice is commonplace even in staunchly conservative states; universities in Texas use this exact standard.
The bake sale has a sliding scale of prices, with Hispanic, Black, Native American and female customers paying lower amounts for baked goods. The College Republicans’ Facebook event page claimed that the “satire” was meant to raise awareness about the issue. The event’s Facebook page previously read, “If you don’t come, you’re a racist!”
Shawn Lewis, UC Berkeley College Republicans president, told CNN that the bake sale’s prices were meant to mimic the effects of SB-185, observing that “discriminating against people based on their skin color for baked goods is discriminatory,” just like the affirmative action bill. He continued to say that the bill ignores socio-economic factors that deserve to be considered.
The organizers of this bake sale are severely confused.
First, the socio-economic factors that Lewis said are absent from the language of the bill are directly included in SB-185: household income, geographic origin and national origin can all contribute to socio-economic status. Maybe the group just missed that half of the sentence.
Furthermore, the bill does not require anything of schools; they may choose to opt out. Its language is also so broad that many hardships or circumstances besides race may be considered during admissions. Plus, when admissions representatives have hundreds of applicants with similar test scores, grades and other materials, but less seats in the entering class, a student’s background information can provide insight into whether or not they should be given priority over another student.
The bake sale’s portrayal of the affirmative action-like system grossly oversimplifies the process. Nobody is admitted to a school solely because they are African-American or Hispanic. Diversity considerations are used as small supplements to applications, not deciding factors.
The “I’m Black, admit me” mentality that the organizers of the bake sale say is the essential character of the bill is completely off. When applying to schools, applicants are asked multiple “diversity” questions including ones about where they were raised, their parents’ income, their family dynamics and if they had any interruptions in their schooling, along with a host of other relevant questions.
Furthermore, universities often require or encourage a short statement of diversity in which students are expected to fully explain their circumstances and prove that their backgrounds have developed their character. White students are welcome to submit statements that explain how low income, immigration, striking events, familial or health troubles, linguistic issues, or any other circumstances have placed them at a disadvantage.
The bake sale participants have the right to do and say what they want, and their basic message is laudable: race should not be a free ticket. But SB-185 does not actually do the evil things that they claim it does; if they want to be taken seriously, they need to fully understand the policy and make an actual argument against it, using productive means such as debates and petitions instead of publicity stunts.
Lewis and his group successfully got attention with these shenanigans, but I see no useful critique of the legislation conveyed by their activities. Getting attention is all they have accomplished.
Rachel Farhi is a senior political science and English literature double major and may be reached at [email protected]