Is Affirmative Action ‘Reverse Racism’?

UC Berkeley’s College Republicans are putting on a “pay-by-race bake sale” in order to demonstrate what they consider to be the straightforwardly and obviously unjust nature of affirmative action, especially when used in the college admissions process.

Their pricing menu reads thusly:
White $2.00
Asian $1.50
Latino $1.00
Black $0.75
Native American $0.25
$0.25 Off For All Women

I thought I would go ahead and do the College Republicans of UC Berekely a favor (after all, they suffer enough) and offer some suggested revisions to the Bake Sale pricing so that it better reflects the racial realities of the contemporary United States:

— White people start off with more money to begin with; thus, people of color pay less because they start out with less. (This part of the demonstration would admittedly be more difficult to implement but it could still be done. For example, make it so that the cupcakes could be purchased only with Monopoly money. Then, hand to each white spectator/participant $10, each Asian participant $8, etc. If you really wanted to get precise you could cordon off a very small patch of dirt and insist that Native American spectator/participants attempt to buy the cupcakes only from within that cordoned-off space…)
— They have conveniently forgotten to mention that children of Alumni would also pay a significantly discounted rate.
— Students from underrepresented states like Montana and Wyoming, which are almost entirely white, would also pay a discounted rate.
— They have also forgotten to mention the part where students of color are more likely to take out exhorbitant loans to pay for their cupcakes–loans which will help make the disproportionately white and male graduates of institutions like Berkeley very rich in their future careers on Wall Street and in banks.
— And they have also forgotten to mention the part where the black and hispanic women who baked the cupcakes received less than a living wage for their efforts and were not allowed to unionize.
–Also, if one rightly mentions that poor whites are left out of this demonstration, we could simply add them to the list of those who ought to receive a discounted cupcake rate without taking anyone else off of it.

But most of all, they have forgotten to mention the part about how the United States itself is a structure of unjust advantage for white people and this is nowhere more evident than in the areas of primary and secondary education.

4 thoughts on “Is Affirmative Action ‘Reverse Racism’?

  1. hey katie, thanks so much for posting this! i was kind of nebulously disturbed when i read the NY times article about the student GOP at berkeley, but your response has helped me sort out with more precision just why their presentation is flawed. thank you!

  2. Thanks for this post.

    This is from Gawker. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure the professor in the story is Judith Butler’s partner:

    The best response, we think, came from Political Science Professor Wendy Brown, who was the bake sale’s first customer:

    UC Berkeley Professor of political science Wendy Brown tried to buy all the baked goods at the Republicans’ sale, but they did not allow her to do so.

    “I thought the Republicans were free enterprise, but they won’t let me buy all the cupcakes,” she said.

    Heh. Wendy Brown! You are a poli-sci professor! You should know that Republicans care way more about trolling Democrats and scoring arcane “gotcha” points than they do about free markets.

    http://gawker.com/5844490/college-republicans-stupid-race+based-bake-sale-is-exactly-what-youd-expect

  3. This post is great! I would only say that the part about Native Americans would be not optional, and not about “if you want to get more precise.” Did you know there is a large population of Native peoples in California and OMG UC BERKELEY they have REMAINS that they refuse to give back to living descendants in their MUSEUM and yeah- I’d say it’s a safe bet that those kids think that indigenous people, like, all died in 1682 or gave the whites some corn and went away on a boat or something.

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