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A cupcake sellout at 'inherently racist' bake sale by UC Berkeley Republicans

By Holly Yan and Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Wed September 28, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: No problems occur at satirical bake sale -- just hot debate, organizer says
  • Bake sale lampooned a bill that would allow race and gender to be considered in admissions
  • Group leader: "We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point"
  • Berkeley's student government countered with a call-in supporting the bill, SB 185

(CNN) -- A provocative bake sale designed to satirize affirmative action resulted in no fisticuffs Tuesday, but it did prompt a sellout of 300 cupcakes and some heated debate at the University of California at Berkeley, the bake sale organizer said.

"The biggest thing is that no violence broke out. There was no physical situation, which is really great," Berkeley College Republicans President Shawn Lewis said Tuesday afternoon, as the bake sale was nearing an end.

"We sold out of cupcakes, and I think we have some (of the 200) cookies left," Lewis told CNN.

"Beside from selling cupcakes, there was a lot of conversations between people," Lewis said. "There were some aggressive people who came up with angry things to say, but there was no violence."

In light of recent threats made against supporters of the group, college Republicans from several other California universities showed up by the carloads and volunteered to help staff the event, held on a campus plaza, Lewis said.

The flagship campus of the University of California system was the state epicenter Tuesday in the debate over affirmative action and college admissions.

On one side, the Berkeley College Republicans hosted their "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" -- a satirical event that charged customers different prices based on race and gender.

Yards away, Berkeley's student government -- the Associated Students of the University of California -- hosted a phone bank in support of SB 185, state legislation that would allow California universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity and national origin during the admissions process.

Neither side backed down.

During the sale, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., baked goods were sold to white men for $2, Asian men for $1.50, Latino men for $1, black men for 75 cents and Native American men for 25 cents. All women received 25 cents off those prices.

"We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point," Lewis wrote in response to upheaval over the bake sale. "It is no more racist than giving an individual an advantage in college admissions based solely on their race (or) gender."

ASUC President Vishalli Loomba said many students who attended a community meeting Monday night expressed disgust that the bake sale would take place.

"As a woman of color, when I first saw the event, I was appalled someone would post something like this on the Internet -- not only a different pay structure, but also to rank the races," she said. "It trivializes the struggles that people have been through and their histories."

Lewis said he agreed a ranking system for races isn't fair -- not for bake sales, and not in other aspects of life.

"The purpose of the pricing structure ... is to cause people to disagree with this kind of preferential treatment," Lewis said. "We want people to say no race is above another race, or no race is below another one. Why put one over the other? Why rank them that way?"

Before the sale, Lewis said his group wouldn't enforce the price list.

"If a white guy comes up and says, 'I want the price from an African-American female,' we absolutely give him that price," he said.

There can be complications with self-identifying a race -- especially if a person is multiracial, Lewis said.

Events similar to the Berkeley bake sale have taken place at other colleges across the country, generally organized by college Republican groups. In some cases -- such as at Berkeley -- the plan sparked controversy and protests.

Other times, university officials stepped in.

At Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, officials shut down a similar bake sale on campus. Officials at The College of William and Mary in Virginia cut off a cookie sale, saying they were "shocked and appalled."

The University of California, Irvine, shut down a bake sale on campus, saying it was discriminatory. And a bake sale at Southern Methodist University in Texas was shut down after 45 minutes because of what officials called an "unsafe environment," according to local reports.

Loomba, Berkeley's student government president, said she is concerned about students potentially feeling ostracized due to the bake sale.

"I have heard that from numerous students who have said this makes students feel unwelcome on campus," she said. "For that reason alone, we should think about what events we have on campus."

Lewis said the bake sale at Berkeley was unanimously agreed upon by the club, whose leadership includes Asian and Hispanic students and whose membership represents a "wide variety of ethnic backgrounds."

"More than half of the voices were female," he added.

Berkeley's student government held an emergency senate meeting Sunday to discuss the issue and passed a resolution that, in part, "condemns the use of discrimination whether it is in satire or in seriousness by any student group."

"I completely support the idea of BCR -- or any students on campus -- (having) political discussion," Loomba said. "I think student members of BCR have a full right to express their feelings, but I don't necessarily think this tactic is constructive."

As for where the bake sale proceeds will go, Lewis said the College Republicans are considering several charities.

But "because of all this controversy, we don't want to advertise the organization," he said. "We don't want to cause them problems."

CNN's Michael Martinez reported from Los Angeles.

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