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Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Doesn't Anyone Remember Exact Same Racist Berkeley Bake Sale Happened Eight Years Ago?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 10:59 AM

click to enlarge Can't we all just get along?
  • Can't we all just get along?

In the last few days, an alarming amount of publicity has been garnered by the U.C. Berkeley Republican club's plan to hold a racially charged bake sale. The merits of arch-conservative baked goods aside, the gist is this: Customers will be charged on a sliding scale based on their race, with whites paying top dollar at $2 and Native Americans paying a quarter.

This, apparently, will demonstrate the folly of affirmative action and inspire us all to go back to living in our meritocracy.

Actually, the point of such an overtly provocative move is to generate gobs of publicity -- and this the Berkeley College Republicans have done. Scores of articles have been written about the scheduled Tuesday event; this is the Internet's No. 1 bake sale. The Chronicle has even deigned to wade into the tar pit of campus politics and has penned multiple articles.  

None of the stories on the bake sale that we've come across have noted this salient detail, however: The Berkeley College Republicans did the exact same thing eight years ago.

Actually, the 2003 bake sale's top prices were $1.50 for whites -- but still just a quarter at the low end. Perhaps the Berkeley College Republicans have missed a chance to cite this massive spike as yet another instance of how our society is stacked against white people with college educations.

Getting back to the point, however, it's a bit odd that none of the local articles -- by either students or professionals -- mentioned that this is a case of old cupcakes in a new tin. You'd think it would influence both the coverage and the campus reaction to note that the identical trick was executed not all that long ago. This half-baked notion was not cooked up from scratch, but produced according to a formula.

There are nuanced and honest discussions to be had about affirmative action. But that's not what "diversity bake sales" are about. With apologies for using the term in connection to foodstuffs, this is shit-stirring of the crassest sort. Eight years ago, the college Republicans pulled their baked goods stunt -- and its impact was so earth-shattering that nobody could be bothered to remember it, even in the age of Google. Tomorrow will be more of the same.

So it's confusing why this issue has blown up -- and why affirmative action supporters have helped it to do so with alarmist and heavy-handed behavior. Student politicos have moved to potentially strip campus funds from the Republicans -- a chance at just the martyrdom and publicity the club craves. In fact, only this sort of knee-jerk vindictiveness from self-professed liberals can elevate the bake sale beyond any of the other bizarre events taking place on Sproul Plaza on a Tuesday.

It was George Santayana who noted that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." These are the sorts of things one learns in class at Berkeley -- in between episodes of wandering past self-important hacks producing vast amounts of material for the dustbin of history. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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