A conservative student group at the University of Texas at Austin held an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” on Wednesday, charging different prices based on the race or ethnicity of customers. While the group anticipated some backlash, they probably didn’t expect to be met with over a hundred angry student protesters.
The Young Conservatives of Texas UT chapter priced the baked goods the highest for Asians, marking down the prices for white, black and Hispanic people, attempting to mirror what they believe is preferential treatment in the application process. Native Americans were not required to pay for the cookies.
Members of the group said they created the event because they believe it’s racist to factor in race when admitting students to a university, and admissions should be purely merit-based. The University of Texas consists of 45.1 percent white students, 19.5 percent Hispanic students, 17.2 percent Asian students, and only 3.9 percent black students and .2 percent Native American students.
”Our protest was designed to highlight the insanity of assigning our lives value based on our race and ethnicity, rather than our talents, work ethic, and intelligence,” YCT-UT Chairman Vidal Castañeda said in a press release. “It is insane that institutional racism, such as affirmative action, continues to allow for universities to judge me by the color of my skin rather than my actions.”
Affirmative action is a policy that allows universities to use race as one factor in their holistic admissions process, in order for them to help increase diversity in their schools and give a slight advantage to students who are part of historically disadvantaged groups. Studies have shown that white women are the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action.
The YCT claims the policy itself is racially discriminatory, and their fundraiser tried to address this. They didn’t get around to selling many cookies, though. Within the first hour of their attempted bake sale, they were surrounded by students, mostly students of color, condemning them for what they believe is a racist demonstration.
“I think it’s actually crazy and disturbing that anyone would think black people aren’t smart enough to get into UT based on merit, rather only on skin color,” Shad Murray, a black student at UT who was at the protest, said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “For them to make assumptions like that is disgusting and not true.”
The YCT members were quickly overwhelmed by protesters, who were live-streaming and chanting. Murray played the popular song “Knuck If You Buck” on a speaker as students argued with the hosts of the event. The frustration from students of color didn’t only come from the fact that they believed their academic achievements were being reduced to their skin color, but also because this wasn’t the first time the group has hosted an event like this.
The YCT hosted an affirmative action bake sale in 2013 as well, causing a similar uproar. The same year, the group hosted a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” game, in which a member of the organization would walk around campus wearing a shirt labeled “illegal immigrant,” and whoever caught them would win a gift card. Outrage from students led to the game being canceled.
“Seeing so many different types of people, all from different races and ethnicities, come together and stand up against something offensive was just amazing to watch,” Murray said.
The University of Texas has been the focus of discussion on affirmative action for years, due to a lawsuit filed by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who believed she was racially discriminated against when she was denied admission to the university in 2008. A ProPublica report showed that out of the 42 people with lower test grades than Fisher who were admitted over her, only five of them were people of color ― data that many used to dismiss her claims. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of UT in June, upholding affirmative action at the university.
Despite the Supreme Court decision, the conservative student group is clearly not convinced affirmative action has a place in higher education. One thing is certain, though: the organization’s attempts to satirize the policy will be shut down as long as protesters are still on campus with them.