Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cookies for Racism, Hooray!

Have you heard about anti-Affirmative Action bake sales? Yeah, they're a thing.

The most recent one, which went down today at UC Berkeley was hosted by the College Republicans. According to their Facebook page,
The Berkeley College Republicans firmly believe measuring any admit's merit based on race is intrinsically racist. Our bake sale will be at the same time and location of a phone bank which will be making calls to urge Gov. Brown to sign the bill. The purpose of the event is to offer another view to this policy of considering race in university admissions. The pricing structure of the baked goods is meant to be satirical, while urging students to think more critically about the implications of this policy.
(However, the original event details read a little differently...) You ever notice how the ones who are actually pretty racist are the first to play the race card? (See: Mr. Hear No Evil.)

Basically, the bake sale hopes to make the point that Affirmative Action is wrong by charging racial/ethnic minorities and women less for exactly the same baked goods. So very clever.

I won't lie--Affirmative Action is, no doubt, a tricky issue. I remember writing many a paper on it during my stint as a Poli Sci undergrad in the race politics classes I took. While I have lost my reasoned, academic thoughts on the topic, I can still figure out why these bake sales are as stupid as they are overdone. Simply put, the analogy just doesn't hold up. I mean, Affirmative Action doesn't get minority students into college, no questions asked. As famously quoted in the Houston Chronicle these bake sales:
...reinforce the common misconception that affirmative action policies give academically unqualified minority students a get-into-college free card, and they ignore historical discrimination that denied nonwhites opportunities to be successful at any price, no matter their talents or intelligence.
In actuality, justly applied Affirmative Action looks at similarly ranked students (along traditional academic standards) and seeks to create a diverse student body. It acknowledges the well proven obstacle of racism often faced by minority students. It also includes measures of diversity beyond race, such as geographic representation and socio-economic status. It takes race as one consideration and thus strives for true diversity. (And almost anyone who has gone from a non-diverse setting to a diverse one can tell you what a resource diversity is in the classroom.)

Affirmative Action is not the same as racial quotas, which mindlessly require certain numbers be met. So in this way, the bake sale really doesn't make sense as it is much more a critique of a quota system. For example, an academic admissions quota situation might require 15% of the student population to be black, so the school would just admit the students necessary to fulfill this quota without paying attention their individual attributes. In bake sale land this translates to all black people receiving a standard discount on the cookies.

If the bake sale analogy commonly used was to actually make sense, it would utilize some kind of fair-pricing/sliding scale fee by looking at each individual customer as a whole. For example, a very poor customer might only be charged 10 cents. However, if the bake sales were to take this method, their message wouldn't be so controversial. Therefore, time after time this silly attempt to vilify Affirmative Action policies is utilized.

What always boggles my mind about the fear mongering surrounding Affirmative Action is the myth of the highly qualified white male who gets a shit deal (let's call him Rick, for simplicity's sake.) In this myth, Rick is this amazing scholar and young man, who somehow gets left behind because some under-qualified minority (and probably female) student took his place. He is a hard-worker and now he's left to, I don't know, attend community college or something. His life's ruined. Oh how unfair!

Except I've never met Rick. No really--have you? For every highly qualified and hard working Rick there seems to be a place for him to learn and grow and turn out just fine. Affirmative Action's been around a while. If this myth was true there should be some Ricks out there, yes?

Now I have actually met plenty of sorta racist underachieving blame-it-all-on-someone-else white males (let's call them Bob.) Bob is that guy who will say that a minority or woman got a promotion or opportunity over him and claim reverse discrimination, but then not actually be able to back up in any substantial way how he was more qualified than the other person. Interesting. Maybe I just know the wrong people--or maybe Affirmative Action is often used as a scapegoat. It's sort of like, once it exists, it's an easy thing to blame you own shortcomings on. You're not the one who's insufficient--no, that other person just had Affirmative Action on their side!

At any rate, all I know is that of all the things a student group could come together and protest (like rising tuition or racism) Affirmative Action should be super low on the list.

1 comment:

  1. But think about us poor white people! Those blacks might not only reach our status, they might actually take our privilige away! We can't have that!



This blog has strict comment moderation intended to preserve a safe space. Moderation is managed solely by the blog author. As such, even comments made in good faith will be on a short delay, so please do not attempt to resubmit your comment if it does not immediately appear. Discussion and thoughtful participation are encouraged, but abusive comments of any type will never be published. The blog author reserves the right to publish/delete any comments for any reason, at her sole discretion.

TL;DR Troll comments are never published, so don't waste your time.