The Racist UC Berkeley Republican Bake Sale

The following is a Forbes article that sums up the problem with this bake sale and shortcomings of naive sayings like “Let’s move beyond race” by ignoring it and its accompanying history and effects as opposed to helping move beyond race by addressing the years of social injustice that segregates people of color in poor neighborhoods, shitty schools and no resources.



Eat Your Racist Cupcakes and Count Your Blessings

Victoria PynchonVictoria Pynchon, Contributor
Sometimes, people with a message  have to go the way of Jonathan Swift’s 1729 Modest Proposal(for Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A Burden to Their Parents or Country, etc.).

In other words, they require satire’s hard slap in the face to make their political point.

Swift famously recommended that the Irish sell and cannibalize their infants to solve the “Irish problem” – what we’d now call food insecurity.

Today, the College Republicans at U.C. Berkeley, home of the early ’60s Free Speech Movement, cooked their political opposition toSenate Bill 185 into bake sale cupcakes.

And oh! what a ruckus they caused, pricing cupcakes for “white men” at $2.00 per, $1.50 for Asians, $1.00 for Latinos, $.75 for blacks and $.25 for Native Americans. Add the $.25 discount for all women and Native American women were entitled to their cupcakes free.

If only they could be found on the U.C. Berkeley campus.

The Source of the Dust Up

When asked to justify his organizations’ inherently racist bake sale, Shawn Lewis said,

We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point . . .  It is no more racist than giving an individual an advantage in college admissions based solely on their race (or) gender.

Politicians, even those still in short pants like Lewis, are skilled at making tidy analogies to call attention to the injustices against which they fulminate. Because negotiators do so as well, we weigh in on the racist cupcake debate to judge the success or failure of this particular piece of political theater.

It is Not a Fair Analogy

The college GOP’s bake sale preferentially prices their cakes and cookies according to racial designations. And because so many millennials have trouble characterizing themselves as either Black or White, Lewis said his customers were free to “self-identify.”

In other words, if you were a white male, you could pick up a cupcake free by identifying yourself as a Native American woman.

We’ll get to whether this is funny or grotesquely offensive later. Right now, we’re analyzing the aptness of the analogy. By that standard, the college kids’ prank fails.

Why Selling Racist Cupcakes is Not Like SB 185
Here’s the heart of SB 185 being challenged by the College Republicans’ bake sale:

This bill would authorize the University of California and the California State University to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions, to the maximum extent permitted by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 31 of Article I of the California Constitution, and relevant case law.

That reference to section 31 of Article I is the successful voter initiative which wrote the following language into the California Constitution:

The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

The racist cupcake sale expressly granted preferential treatment to Latinos, women, African Americans, and Asians, among others. SB 185 includes within its terms the stipulation that the University’s consideration of race, sex, national origin, and the like, cannot be used to grant anyone preferential treatment.

For that reason, the analogy fails and this bit of college hijinks is therefore pretty much only offensive to anyone who understands how things are in America.

It’s Offensive
Until America’s (primarily) “white” population comes to terms with the indisputable fact that it is a privileged majority, race will remain the elephant in the room of every political conversation. The suggestion that consideration of race gives marginalized people an unfair advantage ignores the fact that whites in America are born into a preferred social class.

It’s really a very simple concept. When white men occupy 80% of all positions of power across all industries and in all sectors, you have only two choices. Either white men are preferred or women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, gays and Lesbians are inherently inferior.

When you are saddled with non-preferred characteristics – breasts, dark skin, accents associated with foreign countries – it’s insulting to be told by members of the privileged class that your efforts to make the society a more equitable one are costing them the advantage they continue to enjoy.

There you go, Native American coed whose ancestors my people slaughtered, you can take your cupcakefree. Consider that your reparations. You too Black man. For all the trouble my ancestors caused yours, you get a discounted cupcake.

The historic and existing bias that makes life’s race so much easier for those born into the skin of the ruling class is not funny. And pricing cupcakes to match disadvantages acknowledged by the college GOP’s price structure is like mooning your housekeeper.

The Berkeley GOP is not poking a stick in Marie Antoinette’s eye. It is, like Antoinette, suggesting that those less advantaged should “eat cake.”

In this case, cupcake.

Here’s my suggestion to the U.C. Berkeley College Republicans. Jog on over to Starbucks and eat your $2 cupcake in gratitude for being born on third base. You’ll know you’ve lost the advantage your color and gender give you when the people around the Board table at Dell or Microsoft no longer look just like you. If you see an African-American brother at a table nearby, humbly ask him what percentage of his brothers are locked up in American prisons. Then ask what you might do to be of service.


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