Campus Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley say critics have overreacted to their event planned for this week, which they insist is a protest over affirmative action.
The group's Facebook page lists the price of baked goods at the sale according to race: $2 for whites, $1.50 for Asians, $1 for Hispanics, $0.75 for blacks and $0.25 for Native Americans.
"$0.25 FOR ALL WOMEN!" it added.
Campus Republican President Shawn Lewis said the idea of the "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" was to highlight a legislative bill to let California public universities consider race and gender in their admissions process.
He said they planned to go ahead with the sale on Tuesday despite protests and threats. "We didn't expect the volume, the amount of response that we got," he told CNN.
By Nanette Asimov
"The point is, the people of California have said we don't want to see race and color in admissions," Connerly told angry students and faculty who crowded around the table.
"Go to hell!" yelled Ann Callegari, an African American student. "Are you the overseer?"
Connerly, a multiracial Republican who wrote Proposition 209, the state's voter-approved ban on race preferences in government programs, replied that he had plenty of experience with real racism growing up in Louisiana.
Many students denounced the group's bake sale as racist, and student government leaders unanimously approved a resolution condemning discrimination "in satire or seriousness" in response to the event. UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and two vice chancellors sent out a campus-wide letter strongly supporting that position, while acknowledging that the administration "can urge, but not mandate, a person to behave with civility."
The debate reached beyond campus when it was picked up by social media and news organizations.
Commentators from some outlets, such as Fox News, came to the bake sale group's defence, citing their right to offend and speak out against affirmative action.
Critics called the protest 'half-baked' in that it oversimplifies compelling and complex arguments for promoting diversity and remedying past discrimination.
"We're really hurt by what they did," Anais LaVoie, president of the Cal Berkeley Democrats, told CNN.
"The way that they made the statement, the words that they used, the fact that they humourized and mocked the struggles of people of colour on this campus is very disgusting to me."
Controversy erupts over Campus Republicans bake sale plans
"There are a lot of ways to make a point about your disagreement with affirmative action," Wise told Lemon Saturday night.
"I get the joke," he continued. "How very original. It's been done for 15 years. The point that I think needs to be made ... is that by the time anyone steps on a college campus ... there has already been 12 to 13 years of institutionalized affirmative action for white folks, that is to say, racially embedded inequality, which has benefited those of us who are white. And it's only at the point of college admissions that these folks seem to get concerned with color consciousness."
Bake Sale Gives Native Women Free Stuff!
Cal's "Affirmative Action Bake Sale": I want my free cookies
You can hear from them in their own words at this video here. But the gist of what they say is:
I haven't heard anything about women getting affirmative action in college admissions. Sounds like these College Republicans are anti-women (shocking, I know).
I don't mind the concept of using race or satire to criticize racism. And I think some of the critics' arguments--that this trivializes or "humourizes" a serious issue--are weak.
As with most race-based satires, though, this stunt misses the mark. Tim Wise nailed the problem with it: It isn't even remotely similar to the real-world situation.
Let's suppose affirmation action did more than just "consider" race as an admissions factor. Let's suppose people got guaranteed "discounts" for belonging to a certain minority. It wouldn't be anything like 50% off for Latinos, 62.5% off for blacks, and 87.5% off for Natives. It would be more like five or ten cents off the $2.00 admission "price."
And that ignores the whole point of affirmation action, which is to compensate for the past effects of racism. Let's take a typical Native case. Your great-grandparents had their land, water, and natural resources--their immense wealth--stolen from them via a broken treaty. Your grandparents were forced into a concentration camp--a reservation--where they had to adopt an incomprehensible way of life. Your parents were kidnapped, imprisoned, and brainwashed in a boarding school similar to a Communist reeducation camp.
Because of all that, you were born and raised in an environment of poverty and crime. Your parents may have been unemployed, abusive, or absent. Your education and health care were inferior. Yet despite these obstacles imposed by Americans, you somehow persevered and succeeded. Now you're applying for admission at the University of California.
If a college education costs $2.00, your family has had to pay perhaps $10 or $20 more than a typical white student to get to the starting line. And now UC is giving you a ten-cent discount because of your race? How is that not a fair and just remedy for society's historic racism? The racism that white students have benefited from whether they caused it or not?
When a bake sale captures all that in its pricing scheme, then it'll be a valid critique of affirmative action. Until then, no. This bake sale fails for that reason.
For more on the subject, see Whites Think They're Discriminated Against, "Symmetrical View" of Race Is Wrong, and Whites Feel Like a Minority.