Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Affirmation at UC Berkeley: College Republicans' white supremacy “bake sale” powerfully challenged by students
Revolution received the following correspondence:
Cupcakes: $2 for white students, $1.50 for Asian students, $1 for Latinos, 75 cents for African-Americans, 25 cents for Native Americans, and 25 cents off for women of all races. This was the UC Berkeley College Republicans’ idea of a provocative statement against Affirmative Action and in particular, a California State Senate bill that would allow (but not mandate) California public universities to consider race, gender and ethnicity in admissions decisions. See, white people and men are being discriminated against, just like with Affirmative Action! And these undeserving minorities are getting things practically for free! What an outrage! NOT.
One would have to be completely ignorant of the history and present day reality of this country to buy that line of reasoning. As a flyer from the Revolution Club put it: “The Real Price... Native Americans: Near genocide; cultural annihilation; and broken promises. African-Americans: Millions of lives in the Middle Passage; whips, nooses, and slavecatchers; segregation and KKK terror; employment discrimination; mass incarceration and demonization; systematic police harassment, brutality, and murder. Latinos: Stolen land; ruthless exploitation, terrorized by the migra and forced to live in the shadows; systematic police harassment, brutality and murder. Women: Half of humanity treated as “less than,” degraded, demeaned, beaten and raped, looked at as sex objects or nothing more than a breeder of children.” And you want to say that white people and men are being discriminated against by Affirmative Action?!
As soon as the Republicans set up a public Facebook page for their “Increase Diversity Bake Sale,” students were outraged. An emergency meeting was called and hundreds of students, almost entirely students of color, attended. Students felt angry, hurt, under attack, their struggles mocked, their experiences ridiculed. One Black student wrote on his Facebook page:
“Since my years in college the world has just really veered its disgusting, racist head directly into my chest! This has just been one week of complete tomfoolery. First, Black UC Berkeley students get threatened with water hose after being denied entrance to a UC Berkeley white frat house party while standing on public property. Second, Troy Davis is executed with no physical evidence.... Third, at my very own regressive institution of higher learning the Berkeley College Republicans WILL host a ‘Diversity Bake Sale’ in dishonor of affirmative action by literally devaluing minorities with the sale of cheap cupcakes. They feel no remorse.... If there was ever a time to shake off the dust of complacency and stand for something, it is NOW! Needless to say enough is enough. EMERGENCY TOWNHALL MEETING in response to the ‘Diversity bake sale’ @ 6 PM tonight.”
Another student wrote:
“It’s clear that soooo many people who walk around UC Berkeley's campus and the US, thinking that they are some of the most brilliant thinkers and leaders clearly have a distorted view of America's social, economic, and political history. therefore it allows them to make extremely racist comments and engage in racist demonstrations because they have no reason to challenge the status quo which protects their privilege--they have no incentive to do so. I AM TIRED OF WORKING TO INSTIGATE A CONSCIOUSNESS IN A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO ARE UNWILLING TO HEAR! Post Racial Society?! Right...how can anyone even fix their mouth to say something like this! This Country is just as racist as it was before, only it’s become privatized like this University is gradually doing. They may not call me and my folks niggas to our face but they cast us out of schools from the playgrounds in elementary to Sproul hall here at UC Berkeley...sounds like the same song to my heart, just in another key!”
After California proposition 209 (banning Affirmative Action) passed in 1996, UC Berkeley saw a 50% decline in admissions for Black, Latino, and Filipino students. And now, between the tuition hikes and the budget cuts (targeting departments like ethnic studies), things have only gotten worse. A toxic, racist environment is brewing on the campuses, and many students of color feel under siege.
But on Tuesday, September 27, the day of the “bake sale,” people had enough. The protest was called “The Affirmation.” Many hundreds of students, mostly Black and Latino but also others, wearing all-black, walked silently, holding hands, into Sproul Plaza where the Republicans were selling cupcakes. When the clock struck 12 noon, students lay down and covered the plaza with bodies, dramatizing the fact that they weren't going to be stepped on any more. Students lay there on the ground for an hour, in the hot sun, as volunteers came around offering sunscreen and water. Others held up signs that read “Don't UC us?” and “UC us now!” At 1pm, students got up, raised their fists, gathered into a circle and did a call and response, getting louder each time: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win, we must love and protect each other, we have nothing to lose but our chains!” Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lwhjSRAU4c
Despite the national media attention that magnified the Republicans’ smug little bake sale, and limited attention that the opposition got, there was widespread support on campus for the protests. A group of Native American students made a banner that talked about what the U.S. has done to the indigenous people of this land. A prominent political science professor tried to buy out the College Republicans' cupcakes to put an early end to their bake sale. Other students gave away “conscious cupcakes.” But most significantly, the normal oppressive campus climate was punctured by a powerful student protest, that literally stopped traffic for an hour through Sproul Plaza . In this scene revolutionaries distributed many copies of the special issue of Revolution newspaper about BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, a flyer from the Revolution Club, and a card with the first quote from BAsics, “There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.”
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