At the beginning of last week, the College Republicans hosted a bake sale on Vendor’s Row outside the Viking Union.
This was no ordinary bake sale, however—it was an Affirmative Action bake sale. Lucky passers by were treated to the image of fellow Western students selling white pastries for $1, swirled white and chocolate pastries for $0.75, and all-chocolate pastries for $0.50. Some especially fortunate individuals (can you hear my venomous sarcasm dripping here?) were given a handout about the bake sale, which outlined why the College Republicans were hosting the event and what their position is on Affirmative Action.
Coming across one of these handouts myself, I was glad that I was not ignorant enough to purchase one of their racist pastries, for I would have been choking on it as I read about the “logic” of having such an offensive event.
The very first point on the handout about why Affirmative Action is so objectionable is that “Highlighting differences between races only accentuates racism.” That’s funny, because I could swear that hosting a bake sale which ascribes different prices to different colored pastries that presumably represent different races in a highly-trafficked area of campus might also draw a bit of attention to the still-current issues of racism and discrimination.
Skimming down the page, I read that Affirmative Action “can be seen as offensive to minorities.” As a part of the American majority, I cannot attest to whether minorities (a cohesive and single-positioned group, I’m sure) would find Affirmative Action offensive, but I can say that I was deeply offended at the attachment of different price values to different colored comestibles.
On other campuses around the nation (yes, this display takes place all over), student Republican groups and anti-Affirmative Action organizations don’t color-code their bake sale items. Rather, they typically charge white students the most to buy a pastry, Asian, Latino, and interracial students less, and African American students the least.
Rumor has it that the College Republicans’ original plan was to execute their bake sale this way, but it was shot down by the higher-ups of the VU. Somehow this supposedly less offensive revision was the solution.
The College Republicans seemed to miss a fundamental part of this demonstration against Affirmative Action, which is to build a platform to air their opinion that people of color are given an unfair break in college admissions. Instead, they ascribed a lesser value to the darker colored pastries. The implication here is that its not that white students have to pay more than students of color, it is that they are worth more.
Is anyone else reminded of the Minstrel shows? Or of blackface, a face paint that white actors used to put on so that they could appropriate and mock black people? This objectification of color itself, the devaluation of it, is at the heart of the racist sentiments that they are supposedly trying to move on from. After all, the message screams two chocolate pastries are only worth one white.
The handout goes on to offer a possible alternative it Affirmative Action. “If you believe that the role of the federal government is to look out for those in poverty,” it reads, “then perhaps a similar system that puts emphasis on income rather than skin color would be favorable.”
Newsflash: race and poverty in America are unquestionably linked. In 2003, the United States Census Bureau found that there was an 8.2 percent poverty rate among white Americans. Asian Americans faced an 11.8 percent poverty rate, Latinos a 22.5 percent rate, American Indians had a 23.2 percent rate, and African Americans had a whopping 24.4 percent rate.
In terms of household income, the Census Bureau reported that while the average white household pulled in $48,000 a year, an American Indian home made $33,000, and an African American household earned $30,000.
In Seattle alone, students of color make up just 23 percent of private school students. This figure stands in stark contrast to the fact that 60 percent of all students in the public school system are students of color. OK, put on your thinking caps, kids. Might it be harder to get into a highly-regarded college if you are not from a well-funded and illustrious private school? And might employers shovel off your resume if you can’t claim a degree from some Ivy League school?
I don’t know, call me crazy, but some of these things just popped into my head after reading the College Republicans’ handout on Affirmative Action. And don’t forget that you sell your own non-racially-assigned pastries on Vendors Row, just as the Anti-Racist White Student Union did. ARWSU posted a sign in front of their own sale, which read “FREE PASTRIES…regardless of race.”