- SXSW 2014
The Horn's Pavel Nitchovski argues that the Young Conservatives of Texas' "Affirmative Action Bake Sale" was racist.
Oh, sweet merciful baby Poseidon, where do I start? Last Wednesday, the Young Conservatives of Texas engaged in a misguided and ignorant attempt at ‘satire’ by holding an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale.”
The premise of the bake sale was that people would pay for baked goods on the basis of their skin color with white students paying the most ($2), followed by Asian students ($1.50), Latino students ($1), Black students (75 cents), and Native American students (25 cents); with a special 25 cent discount for all women. Voltairian wit indeed…
Now, I’m a big fan of satire and an even bigger fan of stupidity (PROOF). And I get it, UT-YCT is trying to be edgy and confrontational on purpose. But their display last Wednesday was so hopelessly, so tragically stupid that it left me in that delirious state between laughter and tears reserved exclusively for those moments when you remember that your car’s windows are down during a rainstorm.
What’s so sad about this whole bake sale (aside from its utter tastelessness and caricaturization of a very serious issue) is that the people involved actually think that they’re making a valid intellectual point with their childish actions. They are convinced that rather than behaving like attention-seeking children, they are genuinely starting an intellectual discourse.
Yet it’s obvious from the culmination of everything said by chairman Lorenzo Garcia that the whole thing is driven by a superhuman amount of ignorance. In his own words:
"[T]he Fisher v. UT case kind of inspired us to do this, but also just the general practice of using race as a factor for admissions. We’re against it. We don’t feel that it’s fair. It should be based on merit alone, instead of something you can’t control…Basically the point of this is to spark a political discussion, to figure out, you know, why does the university do this?... I’m Hispanic and I come from a middle class family. I’m kind of living proof that the whole [pro affirmative action] argument is complete conjecture. If they really want equality, to quote Martin Luther King Jr., judge a man not by the color of his skin but the content of his character, and that’s what we strive to abide by or live by, and they [liberals] are completely hypocritical about it."
In the interview with “TFM" quoted above, Garcia makes it clear just how much intellectual horsepower guides his organization.
First and foremost, he makes it obvious that he doesn’t understand affirmative action at all. Affirmative action isn’t a policy put in place to reward and penalize people for something that they don’t control—that’s the shallowest possible misunderstanding of the policy. Rather affirmative action is a policy aimed at addressing and correcting the historical exploitation of people who were because of something they couldn’t control (skin color). It’s a stopgap measure intended to redress a historical evil which has had and continues to have consequences into the present day. Affirmative action will no longer be needed when the consequences of the historical injustice are no longer relevant—that is, when it’s not true that white Americans have more advantages in the economic, educational, and social sectors simply because they’re white.
In all likelihood, Garcia and the rest of the UT-YCT belong to that tragic group of boot-strappers who believe that such injustices no longer play a relevant part in American life, and who view their personal experience as proof of a post-racial America in which everyone is only driven by an objective judgment of merit. That’s the only thing that can even come close to explaining how the UT-YCT can feel like they’re adding anything of value in this discussion. It’s also the only thing that can explain Garcia’s bizarre misappropriation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words. Here’s a pro-tip, Lorenzo, dropping MLK quotes in your confused justification doesn’t give it more authority—it just shows how little you understood the words in the first place. (Pro-tip number two: you severely discredit your position of objectivity and reasonable discourse when you explicitly say that your purpose is to “you know, stick it to the liberals, pretty much.”)
Just how misguided is the idea of a post-racial America? Studies conducted as recently as 2009 showed that regardless of the status of the economy, Black American were twice as likely to be unemployed as whites; Latinos were two-thirds as likely to be unemployed, and Asians, about thirteen percent as likely. (Tim Wise, “Colorblind”, p.65-67) When it comes to the social sector, similar studies show that prior to the mortgage crisis minority applicants were more than twice as likely to be sold subprime mortgages as whites (Wise, p.98). And others showed that minority children are more likely to be overcrowded schools as youths and much less likely to be given individual attention or high-track academic option as their white counterparts (Wise, p.106). These three examples are just a tiny, miniscule sample of the available data supporting such racist trends.
The truth of the matter is that the post-racial America that the members UT-YTC have built in their heads doesn’t exist. The specter of America’s racial exploitation does not disappear because some self-entitled kids decided that it has. Nor does the continuing plight and historical injustices suffered by black, Asian, Latino, and Native Americans evaporate because you don’t understand “why does the university do this?”
The university supports affirmative action because it supports the belief that the trends in statistics outlined above is the result of past and continuing discrimination. The University supports affirmative action because it believes that affirmative action can counter that trend by reversing and redressing some of its root causes. Those root causes aren’t resolved by “sticking it to liberals” and they certainly aren’t resolved by putting on your blinders and voicing your ignorance on the West Mall.