Storm over 'racist' US campus cake sale

2011-09-28 08:04
A US student sells baked goods during a protest over affirmative action in Californian university admissions policies. (Ben Margot, AP)

A US student sells baked goods during a protest over affirmative action in Californian university admissions policies. (Ben Margot, AP)

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Berkeley - Ethnic minority students at the elite US Berkeley college have slammed a "racist" campus bake sale organised to highlight the role of race and gender in university admissions policy.

A row erupted over the sale run by the College Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley which charged students different prices depending on their minority status.

The student group billed its stunt as a satirical protest of legislation that would let public universities consider race and gender in their admissions process.

But students, and eventually administrators, decried the event as racist and insensitive.

Cupcakes of conscience

A carnival atmosphere ruled on Tuesday as protesters packed the university's main quadrangle.

A steady stream of mostly white and Asian students lined up for pink cupcakes priced at $2 for whites, $1.50 for Asians, $1 for Hispanics, $0.75 for blacks and $0.25 for Native Americans. Women got $0.25 off.

Counter-protesters crisscrossed the plaza handing out free baked goods to everyone.

Megan Escalona, a Cuban-American third year conservation major, was among those who had spent the previous night baking "cupcakes of conscience."

Though she agrees that affirmative action is flawed in some ways, Escalona said she deplores the divisive tactics of the College Republicans.

"It's inflammatory on purpose to get a rise out of people, and it's disrespectful," she said.

And at noon, hundreds of students clad in black silently filled the square to demonstrate the need for increased diversity.

Tilo Lopez, a third year history major, said he found these gestures of support comforting, but still felt uncomfortable with the bake sale.

"As a Mexican American, it makes me feel extremely unwelcome because of the way they're raising the issue," he said.

Discussion

College Republican Vice President Derek Zhou countered that if the event made people uncomfortable, it was only because his group was trying to show the wrongheadedness of bringing up race in any university context.

"If people think this is discriminatory - which it is - they should think the same about the bill," said Zhou a second year student.

Zhou cheerfully endured hostile shouts from passerby, but said the charge from fellow students that he was betraying his race stung more.

On the whole, College Republicans agreed that the bake sale far exceeded their expectations.

"It's finally started a discussion about a very politically incorrect subject," Zhou said. "Hopefully some good will come of it."

- SAPA
Read more on:    us  |  racism
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