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Oct 26 2016
by Fresh U Editors

UT Austin Students React To Young Conservative Bake Sale Protesting Affirmative Action

By Fresh U Editors - Oct 26 2016

Students at the University of Texas, Austin held a bake sale protesting affirmative action on Wednesday.

The UT-Austin chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas decided to hold a bake sale with varying prices to try and make a point that affirmative action discriminates against white and Asian people.

 To support this logic, they priced the baked goods lower or higher depending on race, charging Asian males the most at $1.50 and Native Americans nothing. This isn't the first time YCT hosted their anti-affirmative action bake sale – the same event was put on in 2013. And while it isn't just YCT that claims that affirmative action is racist toward white people (remember Abby Fisher?), these views ignore the point of affirmative action in the first place – to give disadvantaged students the same opportunities they have been denied in the past due to institutional and once-legal racism and discrimination. (Read more about affirmative action and why it's important here). 

The bake sale was met with outrage on social media and even prompted a response from Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at UT Austin. In a statement, he said, "Such methods are inflammatory and demeaning. Yet focusing our attention on the provocative nature of the YCT’s actions ignores a much more important issue: they create an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff...Although it is their right to do so, it is deplorable that a few students took advantage of this open forum to direct negative sentiment toward their peers."

Fresh U asked students at UT-Austin over Facebook and through messages how they felt about their fellow students hosting this controversial bake sale. This is what they had to say:

Eileen Bau, Class of 2020

A very wrong way of trying to bring light to a very important conversation. I walked past this table on my way to class today, and I am proud that I go to a campus where things like this are not put up with, as evidenced by the resulting protest. People are not - and never should be - ranked, as if we were no more than some sort of grocery store product, by an arbitrary system that attempts to equate race with a monetary value backed by a political agenda. Not only is that terribly shallow and offensive on all kinds of levels, it's like trying to place a price on who you are as a person - and we all know that each person, each race, and each culture has an immeasurable worth. So please, Young Conservatives of Texas - UT Chapter: don't.

Christina Bui, Class of 2020

I can't speak for everyone in the crowd, but I know a lot of people felt hurt and angry. We all worked really hard to get into a school like UT, and people were yelling their SAT scores, their GPA's, class ranks etc to get the point across that we weren't accepted based on race. Affirmative action doesn't take any random person of color, affirmative action just helps universities create an environment of excellence different cultures and it hurt to have our accomplishments reduced to race.

It also angered me the way they literally put price value on different ethnicities and gender. Apparently the higher the price, the harder it was for you to get into UT. Yes, it was hard for me to get into UT, but I worked my ass off because I wasn't in the automatic admissions percentage. A lot of black and brown students worked even harder because 1) this school has a racist history and 2) higher education has always set the standards higher for them. Also putting price value on people is dehumanizing and excuses a lot of dangerous behavior.

It was frustrating that while hundreds of students were trying to voice their outrage over something as blatantly racist as reducing accomplishments of students of color to their race via cookie prices, the members of YCT dodged our questions, or acted like it was no big deal, or laughed it off.

At one point one of them said white people are NOT a majority at UT, because they are "only" 44% of the student population, but isn't it scary that Asian students, black students, Native American students, and Latinx students COMBINED make up 56%? When 44% of the school population is ONE race, that is a problem.

Also they didn't bake their own cookies. They were store bought. 

Arvind Ashok, Class of 2020

I'm appalled that Young Conservatives doesn't have any internal review process that prevented the production of their bake sale poster. How deluded do you have to be to think that giving literal dollar valuations to people is an acceptable form of discourse?

Lacey Grace, Class of 2020

I don't usually voice my opinion publicly but this is very important. So I'm just going to share MY opinion on this really quick because I am entitled to it.. Affirmative action is not just based on ethnicity or race. We have affirmative action to make education available to all who are underprivileged and do not have the same source of education as many other people. There are privileged people of color and there are underprivileged white americans. But the majority of underprivileged areas are of minority communities because at one point in time there were no opportunities for people of color and women to get a higher education therefore they were forced into these lower income communities. 

This country does not treat every person equally. But because of affirmative action we are moving towards a country that will. Hopefully someday affirmative action will not be necessary. But in today's society, in the world that we live in, that was structured around a system that at one time only held opportunities for white males, we need this plan of action. We are making education a possibility for those who at one point did not have the opportunity. Many people have to suffer because of the policies that restricted their ancestors from being educated. If minorities and women had the resources to an abundant standard of living in the past, we would not need affirmative action now. But we didn't... So we do.. Stop trying to take that away from us again.

Young Joo, Class of 2020 

I was really disappointed by our student body today. I realize that AA is a hot topic and that people have different views from the Young Conservatives group tabling today, but I think the delivery of the opposing view was very mishandled, to the point where it took away from their argument. If the people who were for AA had approached the group in a more civil manner so as to discuss the issue and harbor more valid points in an educated conversation, everything would have went well. Both sides do have legitimate arguments. However the feeling I got from the protesters was aggressive and accusatory, and I felt like the group tabling were being attacked simply for holding and advocating their belief. This just spiraled out of control and brought forth a mob-mentality, and completely stopped any semblance of furthering an educated conversation/debate in its tracks.

Oksana Lyon, Class of 2020

I think that they had every right to express their opinion, but should not have done it in such a degrading/demeaning manner.

Kim Hsun, Class of 2020

Honestly, when I heard about this my stomach dropped and I felt sick, but I was far from surprised since this has been done before on our campus. I was appalled by the prices placed on people of color, and I understand the point that the young conservatives were trying to make, but it doesn’t seems as if they get the whole picture of our society or understand why that act is offensive. With a history of racism and literal prices put on people of color’s bodies, I fully understand the outrage that occurred as a result.

 I think the main problem with these affirmative action debates is that people think we need a colorblind standard (this group literally stated that) but people don’t understand that colorblindness is a form of racism. The act of colorblindness is a privilege – I can’t walk down the street and pretend that my identity doesn’t matter when hate crimes and assault are rampant in our society and on our campus. I can’t just erase the hardships of my immigrant parents, the way I grew up and the structural barriers that I’ve faced growing up. And people of color, those that only pay 25 cents or less according to this poster, can’t ignore that either. The idea that we should just pretend like race isn’t a factor in how we are raised and our privileges to get into college is ignorant, because people are not socialized the same way based on their skin color. 

For example, I went to a school that was about 50% white and 50% hispanic demographically, yet in the top AP classes there were only one or two hispanic kids in a sea of white there which shows the unofficial segregation that happens in our society. These types of acts are hateful and honestly tell people of color that they aren’t welcome or that they don’t deserve to be at this school. It’s offensive to think that your race doesn’t play apart in the way you grow up, and that we should forget it. It shouldn’t, but it does outside of this policy and we can’t ignore that.

Priyanka Mara, Class of 2019

I think YC was wrong in two main aspects 1) You can't assign money values to race/gender, that's just wrong and 2) I don't think they used the metaphor correctly like if they did want to use a "bake sale" metaphor, if this metaphor is going to be accurate, you can't just change prices of goods for different genders and ethnicity. If this metaphor is going to be accurate then you're going to have force black people to make the cookies you're selling for 200 years, allow white people to cut in line before all other people of color and women, limit people's access to the line based on their race and stereotypes, and give people already allowed to stand in the front of the line "tax cuts" so in reality they don't even have to pay that much more anyway. If you're going to try to use a metaphor make sure you actually do it right.

Also to all the people who are arguing that it was wrong of POC to be angry and arguing that YC has a right to an opinion I think that its wrong for privileged people to police POC/marginalized anger and respectability politics that demand marginalized groups be civil to people who don't value them as human beings or understand their struggle is also wrong. They have a right to be angry and no obligation to be patient with people who marginalize them.

Also, one of my favorite parts was how orgs that just happened to be tabling next to them used their unpopularity to boost their own? Like the China Cares group on campus was selling cupcakes to raise money for Chinese orphanages and they started yelling "NON RACIST CUPCAKES" and business boomed.

Alan Shaw, Class of 2020

Overall, although I disagreed with both their message and means of expressing that message, I hope that people will still respect the org members' freedom of speech. They had the right to put on that bake sale. And students also had the right to protest it.

Fresh U reached out to the UT Austin Young Conservatives of Texas chapter on Facebook for comment, and has not received a reply at the time of this article's publication. This article will be updated to include any comment from YCT. 

Lead Image Credit: Twitter 

Reporting contributed by Catherine Cheng. 

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