Provocative cookies and race neutrality

Race Issues
by La Shawn Barber

Posted on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, at 12:10 pm

I’ve written about my opposition to government racial preferences for years. Some might say it’s an unlikely position for someone like me who is supposed to benefit from such preferential treatment. But I consider those preferences patronizingly demeaning and unfair, and I believe they undermine the laudable and necessary goal of racial neutrality in government.

Race-based preferences in government are pretty much ingrained and here to stay for at least another generation. But those who oppose them can do their part in speaking and writing against them whenever possible, and encouraging their elected officials to publicly oppose them and craft legislation to ban them. I’ve always thought “affirmative action” bake sales illustrate the point very well. Recently, the Young Conservatives of Texas, a student organization at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, protested racial preferences in school admissions by holding a bake sale in an open area on campus with a price list based on race and sex.

For example, whites had to pay $2 for cookies, Asians $1.50, Hispanics $1, blacks 75 cents, American Indians 25 cents, and women received a 25-cent discount. It’s explicit and shocking, as it’s meant to be. It’s ugly, too. But similar, real-life decisions go on behind closed doors at taxpayer-supported colleges and universities across the country. Under affirmative action admissions policies, certain minorities are assessed by a lower standard.

In an appeal-to-emotion statement, Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at UT, called the bake sale “inflammatory and demeaning” and “provocative.” He’s partly correct. Although the protest was meant to be provocative, the tiered-pricing wasn’t inflammatory or demeaning. The bake sale was satire intended to shine a light on the actual inflammatory and demeaning policy that violates the rights of individuals. Vincent added that the sale “creates the misperception that some students either do not belong at the university or do not deserve to have access to our institution—or worse, that they belong or deserve only to a certain degree.”

The misperception lies in believing some are more deserving than others based on skin color rather than merit. If a minority student doesn’t have the grades or scores the school has set for admissions, that student doesn’t get in. His skin color or sex doesn’t justify a taxpayer-supported school rejecting another student based on skin color or sex.

It really is that simple. None of the reasons often given for affirmative action—“legacy of slavery,” the history of “Jim Crow,” and “white privilege”—invalidates an individual’s constitutional rights. Could any freedom fighter from the 1960s civil rights-era, one who longed for a race-neutral government, imagine that half a century later, his government would still be doing this? People died for this cause.

The conservative club’s bake sale is meant to shock and to expose what’s really going on. The affirmative action policy is objectively wrong and defeats the whole purpose behind the valiant attempt to eradicate discrimination back in the day. As long as our government continues to reject “equal justice under law,” I hope those who oppose the practice, especially young people, continue their peaceful yet provocative protests.

La Shawn Barber

La Shawn is a former WORLD columnist.

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