Date: Monday, September 26, 2011, 4:35 am
By: F. Finley McRae, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com
A so-called “Increase Diversity Bake Sale,” scheduled for Tuesday by the UC Berkeley College Republicans, ignited a firestorm of protests t
his weekend and has spurred efforts to strip the group’s university funding.
Critics, including a large number of student government leaders, contend that the sale, to dramatize the club’s opposition to funding higher education for undocumented youth, has decidedly racist overtones. A legislative initiative to provide such funding, AB 185, was passed this summer by the California Assembly and is currently being weighed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
At the sale, in front of Sproul Hall, the center of activity on the northern California campus, cookies and other baked goods will be sold at much lower prices to African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans and women. The club says the pricing scale will drive home its notion that the legislation discriminates against whites, especially white males.
White males will be charged $2.00 for each sweet, Asians $1.75, Latinos $1.00, African-Americans 75 cents and Native Americans only a quarter. Shawn Lewis, the College Republicans’ president, claims the event is “satirical” in nature.
Vishalli Looma, president of the Associated Students of the University of California, which met late Sunday in an emergency session to consider action against the club, said campus leaders are not amused.
“Members of the BCR have expressed that the differential pricing structure was intended to be satirical, but I do not see how this is compatible with what AB 185 stands for,” she told the Daily Californian, the university’s undergraduate newspaper.
The student government’s constitution, Looma said, states that “the Senate shall not fund any activity or group which discriminates against any student by race, color, religion, marital status, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, physical disability, political activity or belief in recruitment and acceptance for membership.”
Lewis, who did not respond to BlackAmericaWeb.com’s e-mail request for comment, had alleged on Friday that the criticisms leveled against the club are unfair. “People just keep screaming that (the club’s sale) is a bunch of white kids and that Berkeley students have (only) one voice.”
Alfredo Mireles, Jr., a Berkeley student pepresentative on the UC Board of Regents, said, “It is disappointing that these politically engaged Berkeley students decided to deal with this issue in an immature and offensive way that will make some students feel unwelcome on their own campus.”
The estimated cost of the legislation will be $13 million, according to Los Angeles Assemblyman Gilberto Cedillo (D-45), who authored it. California’s 2011 budget is $88 billion.
Although AB 185 has sat on Brown’s desk for several weeks, most political analysts, journalists and commentators have predicted that he will sign it.
Eric Bauman, vice-chair of the California Democratic Party, told BlackAmericaWeb.com that “this extremism demonstrated by the Berkeley College Republicans is typical of what we’ve come to expect from Republicans in California and all across the country.”
Instead of drawing positive publicity and eager members, “this does nothing but alienate Republicans from everybody else, and that’s why they represent only 30 to 34 percent of the voters in California,” said Bauman, who also chairs the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.
Jennifer Longley, president of Young Democrats of California, agreed with Bauman.
“At the end of the day, the Berkeley Republican Club is doing some of the same crazy things to garner media attention as did the San Francisco State College Republicans when I was a student there,” she said.
“This is nothing new; it is what is. At San Francisco State, the College Republicans held a Guantanamo Bake Sale, so I’ve seen this kind of thing before. It’s a cheap shot, a stunt to yet again demonize any section of society with whom they do not politically agree,” she said.
On the same note, Longley continued, “its disappointing, but not surprising. Welcome to the California Republican Party. Despite the rapid growth in California’s diverse populations, the Republican Party is showing that it has no intention of embracing that diversity.”
Tomer Ovadia, the Daily Californian’s editor-in chief and the president of its editorial board, declined to comment.
“The only opinion our newspaper conveys to the public on issues such as this one,” he said, “comes through our editorials.”