Racist Cupcakes? Berkeley Erupts over Affirmative Action Satire
The U.C. Berkeley College Republicans struck a national nerve today by holding a bake sale with racially discriminatory pricing: Higher prices for white and Asian students, lower prices for black, Hispanic and female students. Why the intentional discrimination? To protest a pending new statewide law, SB 185, which attempts to re-introduce Affirmative Action into university admission standards, something that was banned years ago with California's Proposition 209, a popular constitutional amendment requiring race-neutral admissions.
The purposely inflammatory gag was very clever: the goal was to make everyone point out how racist the cupcake prices were, at which point the young Republicans reply, "Exactly! Racial discrimination is unfair. Thanks for making our point for us!"
But the leftists on campus and around the state instead flew into a blind rage: The joke was too effective, so Affirmative Action proponents simply pretended to "not get it." Accusations of racism flew back and forth and before anyone knew it we had a major FUBAR situation on our hands.
The Berkeley College Republicans set up their table on U.C. Berkeley's legendary Sproul Plaza, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement and the place where all campus clubs host recruitment tables. By the time I showed up at 10am, there were already hundreds of protesters swarming around the table.
The cupcakes were very "diverse" in their coloration. Will the mockery never cease?
This 7-minute video montage contains several short interviews with various people at the protest, and really contains almost everything you need to know about the event. I alternate back and forth between College Republicans explaining their point, and counter-protesters trying to explain, uh, well, something or other. Almost all of these clips are "piggybacking" on interviews that other reporters did of the various people shown; whenever one camera would come out to record an interview, several additional cameras would usually appear out of nowhere to get a free ride. Some of the clips were taken by me, and some by others who sent their videos to me.
However you slice it -- it's video gold not to be missed!:
The Berkeley College Republicans were not all "white" as most people assumed; they included members of all races.
One of the young Republicans carried a sign with the discriminatory menu. Shocking!
Ward Connerly, the godfather of the anti-Affirmative Action movement, showed up took a seat at the bake sale table, where he was interviewed by various media outlets.
He calmly pointed out to all comers that the pending bill, SB 185, waiting to be signed or vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, was patently unconstitutional, since California voters had already amended the state constitution with Proposition 209, which plainly says "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." He predicted that SB 185, even if signed, would be thrown out by the courts. The only way to undo Prop. 209 would be to re-amend the state constitution to allow discrimination (highly unlikely), or to have the United States Supreme Court declare the whole thing federally unconstitutional, something which they've never done, despite having several opportunities to. So it looks like non-discrimination is here to stay, to the great dismay of the Affirmative Action advocates.
Several different counter-protest groups showed up. By Any Means Necessary, the leading radical Affirmative Action advocacy group, had a major presence. "BAMN," as they are commonly known, take their name from a famous Malcolm X speech.
Someone brought some "Get the fuck/GOP out!" shirts and invited people to personalize them with their own messages; someone upgraded one of the shirts with "Fuck White Supremacy," and laid it on the ground in front of the bake sale.
The Revolutionary Communist Party also showed up en masse, bringing along this sign which clarifies their opinion of America pretty well.
Back at the main table there were incessant arguments and discussions about race and Affirmative Action. To everyone's amazement, the College Republicans did not back down, despite massive condemnation from the ASUC (the student government) and worldwide accusations of racism being hurled at them. In fact, they held their own in the arguments pretty well, because practically every single opponent fell face first into the simple logical trap the Republicans had set: If you think the pricing scheme is "racist," because it discriminates according to ethnicity, then you must also think that Affirmative Action is racist, since it does exactly the same thing!
Notice how, early in the day, the sign was at first in pristine condition. But 45 minutes later...
...someone had smeared a cupcake on it in anger. And then shortly afterward...
...someone added "Be a racist dick," completing the composition.
This enterprising young citizen journalist was interviewing everyone in sight with his flip-phone. Somebody didn't appreciate being asked their opinion, so they whined to the police, who gave the guy a mild warning not to be so extraverted.
I don't know how they made these double-reverse satirical t-shirts so fast!
There have been altogether too many accusations of racism and not enough accusations of sexism in this whole debate. Time to rectify matters! Let's get sexist.
They're so rarely in the same vicinity that one seldom gets a chance to compare the two groups. So, which do you prefer:
Republican chicks? Or...
All sorts of white people were railing about the evils of "white privilege." In this case, the protester was making a sarcastic commentary on the Republicans: "Defend White Privilege."
"You represent Elitism," this privileged white male declares.
Elsewhere, a (presumably) gay student was greatly offended that the discriminatory price list didn't also insult and degrade queers. No fair! If you Republicans aren't sufficiently bigoted against us, then we'll lose relevance! By leaving any mention of us out of your bake sale, you discriminated against us by not discriminating against us!
Racial arguments raged at the Republicans' table, but amazingly tempers remained for the most part under control, as the Republicans stayed on message and wouldn't get baited into name-calling.
It's a hobby of mine to notice little details in every picture. In the image above, at the very top edge, was this lonely student all by herself at the periphery of the protest, holding up a sign saying "This is wrong." Poignant, in a way.
I tried to get an overall crowd shot to show just how huge the protest had become. Not sure if this conveys it very well, but in any case: big.
And despite all the crowds, the other worthy student groups lining Sproul Plaza were almost totally ignored. The "Abolish Sex Trafficking" booth, for example, had no traffic whatsoever, sex or otherwise. Those damn Republicans: now they're causing an increase in sex trafficking as well!
Egotistical scuzzball Michael Delacour, a surviving remnant of the 1969 People's Park riots in Berkeley and a notorious character in local legend, planted himself directly in front of the table for an entire hour, ranting "I am an elder! You must respect me!" Everyone tried to ignore the delusional bum and eventually he wandered away.
Before he left, he unintentionally proved why there's no need for Affirmative Action by giving a demonstration of how much more stupid he, a white person, is than the cool and intelligent African-American Ward Connerly. It was one of the most lopsided debates I'd ever witnessed.
Nearby, the racial sides were reversed as a very angry African-American woman argued with one of the white Republicans. Afterward, he offered to shake her hand, but she instead stomped off in a huff.
Several competing protesters were jealous of the Republicans' media-grabbing successful gimmick, and tried to come up with gimmicks of their own. This group, for example, carried Hula Hoops to show how many "hoops" disadvantaged students had to jump through to get into college.
As lame as the hoop gimmick may have been, it was practically brilliant compared to the gimmick of some student co-opers who handed out free baked goods, because "humans don't have a price tag." When interviewed by various reporters about the point of their protest, the answers were along the lines of "We just think everything should be free!" When one reporter asked, "Are you saying metaphorically that all applicants should be let into U.C. Berkeley, with no discriminating of any kind? Free to enter?", there was a momentary confusion, and then an enthusiastic reply of "Yes!" But when pressed about how 100,000 applicants per year could fit onto a campus that can only hold 30,000, the co-opers hemmed and hawed, and then simply repeated, "Everything's free!"
And the worst gimmick of all came from these Harry Potter fans who offered a price list based on the class/race system in the Harry Potter universe. Were they mocking the Republicans, or were they mocking the very concept of race? No one knew, including (I suspect) the Potter-heads themselves.
Later in the day, several hundred regimented counter-protesters showed up with the best gimmick of all, dressing in black and enacting various choreographed maneuvers, like holding hands in perfectly straight lines, and then lying on the ground. I had bailed out before their late arrival, so this photo is borrowed from Lance Iverson of SFGate.
The only counter-protester who made any kind of valid argument was this young woman who pointed out that wealthy students these days sometimes get special training in how to do well on SAT tests, something that underprivileged students usually don't have access to. And while this does highlight one way that the "privileged" have an edge over the "under-privileged," it has everything to do with class and nothing to do with race. The Republicans who engaged with her said they were perfectly fine with the University giving a boost to poor students for this very reason; but what about a wealthy Hispanic or African-American student who got special SAT tutoring versus a poor white student who didn't? How would Affirmative Action rectify that problem?
The Republican students valiantly held their ground in the swirling crowd. It was something I never thought I'd see at Berkeley.
Even more remarkably, a popular professor (from the business school) held an impromptu open-air lecture explaining how Affirmative Action drags down the whole system. He gave as an example what he witnessed in Malaysia where there was government-sanctioned admissions discrimination against Chinese-Malaysians and Indian-Malaysians at the nation's top schools. Before long, the top schools were no longer the top schools, as the general quality of the students had gone down, while formerly obscure schools that admitted the rejected students suddenly rose to the top. In his field (teaching entrepreneurship), he explained how real-world pressures demand that only the best students with the best ideas will succeed, regardless of race or gender. The marketplace is the ultimate meritocracy, and no social engineering can ever change that.
And throughout his explanation, the students around him listened attentively. A sea change?
Cal's Indian Students Association hoped no one would notice them at their nearby table. "We have nothing to do with this!" They truly are the forgotten minority on campus, the ethnicity that doesn't fit in the American schema. Are they part of the "over-represented minority" Asian student population, or are they oppressed brown peoples from the Third World? A little of both, but their straight-A grade point average and relentless work ethic tend to identify the Indians as part of the Oppressor Class. Spend less time studying and more time protesting, and you can finally take your place in the Hierarchy of Victimhood!
More communist commentary about race.
Zapatistas were milling around as well.
When your argument relies on the word "historically," you know you're in trouble. Yeah, historically there may have been discrimination, but that hasn't been legal in, what, 46 years?
Speaking of which: Some counter-protesting group thought they'd make some kind of brilliant point by handing out flyers advertising a slave auction in 1855. Which actually reveals what this is really all about: Reparations, baby.
The most surprising part? People actually bought the Republicans' racist cupcakes! What has become of Berkeley? Did it lose its PC gland and find its funny bone?
You know the world has turned upside down when the Republicans are the ones holding up signs saying "Stop discrimination by 'race'," while the liberals are protesting for discrimination.
I felt the ground shifting beneath my feet, but it wasn't an earthquake.