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When is a Bake Sale Ever a Bad Idea?

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By Alex Gangitano on September 27, 2011

In 1996, Proposition 209 was passed in California, not allowing affirmative action in universities considering an underrepresented group over another as a means of counteracting discrimination.

Recently, the Associated Students of the University of California, a campus student government group at Berkeley, planned to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a Senate bill allowing public universities to take race, gender and ethnicity into account in the admissions office.

Today, the Berkeley College Republicans group will have a bake sale, and the prices will be different depending on ethnic group and gender: a treat goes for $2 if white, $1.50 if Asian, $1 if Latino, 75 cents if African-American, 25 cents if Native American and 25 cent discount if a woman.

This chain of cause and effects led to an interesting story The New York Times on Monday and led to two steps back for the youth in our country. The Times explained the bake sale further and quoted many sources in the article. People expressed anger over the premise of the bake sale, but the response to this anger from the group is what troubled me. The organizers said the bake sale would still go on unless their group is threatened with physical violence. How can this be put so lightly?

In 1919, over the span of 6 months, 34 race riots occurred in various states, known as “Red Summer,” the most obvious vision of physical violence due to racial discrimination. The president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, was appealed to by the National Equal Rights League to have the “country undertake for its racial minority that which [he] forced Poland And Austria to undertake for their racial minorities.” This event was not taken so lightly. The African Blood Brotherhood formed an “armed resistance” movement to defend themselves in 1919.

At Berekley, in response to the bake sale, those who organized the event had such intimidating threats on their Facebooks that some changed their names and profile pictures.

If any threat or violence is involved, a bake sale to teach a lesson on race does not seem worth it. There are other ways to handle the matter that do not lead to such possible outcomes. Discussing race is extremely important in our universities, but the bake sale doesn’t seem to be doing the job; one student is quoted as writing on the facebook group “the education value of this exercise will be lost when Pocahontas walks away with a truckload of free cupcakes.” Sorry Berekely College Republicans, but according to this student’s quote, your bake sale is doing the opposite of its intended duty.

The group’s president told the Times, “Treating people differently based on the color of their skin is wrong, and we wanted people to be upset about that.” I understand their goal and think it is a great one, but are they accomplishing it? When students are threatening others through social networking and the group is concerned the bake sale will lead to physical violence, students’ responses go past being just upset. When students are responding with racial remarks like calling the Native American students Pocahontas, the goal of the event seems to be lost. I am anxious to see how the bake sale works out, and I’m hopeful that these steps back don’t lead to a huge leap in the wrong direction.

You can follow Alex Gangitano on Twitter at @alexgangitano.

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