Cal Bake Sale Exposes Dated GOP Thinking

The racial bake sale held Tuesday morning by a group of UC Berkeley’s Republican students charged most for cupcakes and cookies if a buyer were White, with successively lower prices for Asians, Latinos, Blacks and Native Americans.

Wholly aside from the issue of affirmative action which the sale was meant to lampoon, I’m offended by its implicit inaccuracy even on a purely symbolic level.

The highest prices should have been charged to Asians who would be hurt most by any race-based affirmative action in admissions. Why? Asians, not Whites, make up the largest group of students in the University of California system. And Asians, not Whites, have been the group that has been taking the biggest admissions hits due to various diversity-based admission policy “adjustments” over the past quarter century.

I point this out not because I am against affirmative action for socially and economically disadvantaged groups but because I am dismayed at the out-of-touch thinking that animates young Republican activism even at a first-rate California university.

First, let me shed a little light on the confusion about the data on the racial breakdown of UC students. A third — 33% — of students are either multi-racial or choose not to identify themselves as belonging to any particular race. Leaving that category of students in the UC system’s racial data mix, Asians are 32% of students while Whites are 26%, Hispanics are 5% and Blacks are 4%.

If you were to take those uncategorized students out of the mix on the reasonable assumption that they are likely to contain Asian and White students in at least the same proportion as the students who choose to classify their ethnicity, Asians are actually 47.8% of students while White are 38.8%.

If you take it a step further and include into the racial breakdown the large percentage of foreign students — of whom Asians are more than 75% — the Asian share would be well above 50% while Whites would be around 35%.

So why are these Republican students so sloppy in their purportedly symbolic bake sale? Because they are operating from an anachronistic mindset. To me this dated thinking is symptomatic of the decay setting into the Republican philosophy.

I was once an Republican. Then I became bothered by some of the party’s implicit assumptions. Among them is the offensive one that Whites are our nation’s foundational population while minorities are the tack-ons — ignoring the historical, economic and geopolitical realities of the United States and the world in which it must compete. For example, it is only because of historical racial discrimination of fanatical intensity that California today is not a predominantly Asian and Latino state.

If those young UC Republicans could have shaken off that worldview apparently frozen in the 50s, they would have recognized the socio-economic realities of their own campus, university system and state by pricing their goodies highest for Asian students. That would probably have made a few more passing Asian students give some thought to the concept behind the symbolic protest. As things went, the young Republicans were left flapping in the wind like the tattered rearguard of a smug cause whose social base seeped away.