Archive for Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bake sale tests free speech rights

October 2, 2011


I have no beef with the student Republicans.

Oh, I disagree with them about affirmative action, and probably a dozen other things as well. But I am not troubled — amused, but not troubled — by the way they’ve expressed their view. Unfortunately, others have been less sanguine.

The story goes as follows: the GOP student group at the University of California at Berkeley wanted to illustrate its opposition to pending legislation that would allow state universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity and national origin as factors in admission. So it sponsored an “Increase Diversity Bake Sale,” in which the prices varied according to race. White men were asked to pay $2 for what Asian men could get for $1.50, Latino men for $1, African-American men for 75 cents and Native American men for a quarter. All women received a 25-cent discount off those prices.

If I were going to use baked goods as a metaphor for affirmative action, my price scale would go like this: Black and Native American men would pay $10, Asian and Latino men $7 for brownies white men were able to buy for a buck, and the blacks, the Native Americans, the Asians and the Latinos would have to walk a gauntlet of gunfire, physical assault, name calling and legal roadblocks in order to reach the counter. Women would not be allowed to buy any brownies, but would be required to remain in the kitchen baking them, preferably while barefoot and pregnant.

After 350 years, the black, Latino, Asian and Native American men would get a $5 discount off the original prices (do the math) but they’d have to listen to white men carp about the gross unfairness of it all. Women would also get a discount, but would have to sweep up the bakery after it closed.

That said, I’m troubled at the response the GOP students have faced. There has been outrage, which is fair, but they say they’ve also been harassed and threatened online, which is not.

One student protesting the sale told a reporter it was hurtful, “attacking underrepresented communities by reducing their communities to a cheaply priced good.”

But even granting the vulnerability felt by such students, would we do them any favors, do we prepare them for the world, by treating them as delicate flowers who must be shielded from all that is hurtful? We might do better teaching them to cope with the hurtful things that will inevitably come.

The contretemps sparked a resolution from the student senate reportedly and ominously noting the power of a separate student Judiciary Council to defund any group that discriminates and condemning “the use of discrimination whether it is in satire or in seriousness by any student group.”

The resolution thus combined politically correct censorship, and shortsighted overreach, laying out a rubric which, writ large, would outlaw the likes of Chris Rock, Mark Twain, Richard Pryor, Norman Lear, Stephen Colbert, and other satirists who have used discrimination to make trenchant political points.

Thankfully, the “racist bake sale” and a counter protest went on last week as planned. There was no violence, just vigorous debate and a visceral reminder of what a messy, dangerous and powerful tool the founders entrusted to us when they said we had the right to speak our minds.

Let freedom ring.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on


Liberty_One 6 years, 7 months ago

Programs like Affirmative Action are extremely harmful to minorities. Programs like this give help to those who don't need it, for example, law school applicants. These are people who are already graduating from a four-year university. This program does nothing for the inner-city high school dropout with no skills, no experience and no education. This is harmful to minorities because it justifies hatred and ideas of unfairness all while completely ignoring those who are actually disadvantaged. You want to help poor black people? Do these three things:

  1. Repeal zoning laws. The courts ruled that cities cannot prohibit minorities from living in white neighborhoods, so instead they came up with zoning laws that basically did the same thing. By forcing all multifamily dwellings (poor housing) to be only in urban centers the government has created ghettos. Because of this, in some states there is actually MORE segregation in schools today than there was in 1954.

  2. Repeal minimum wage laws. The purpose of minimum wage laws was to protect white unions from minority non-union labor. Money talks, and the best way minorities could fight discrimination was to underprice their competition in the labor market. The real world sucks, but government laws aren't going to create utopia. All these laws do is create unemployment among minorities, especially young people. Guess which group of people has the highest unemployment rate right now?

  3. Privatize education. The best friend of poor people has always been the private sector. Over time the goods and services available to the poor approach those available to the rich in quality. This is a natural product of capitalism--when items are first introduced they cost a lot and only the wealthy can afford them. Over time due to increases in productivity, economies of scale, innovations and competition, the prices of these goods and services falls in order to reach the masses. Public education means that REAL education is only available to the rich. Only by privatizing education can the poor access quality education.

Liberty_One 6 years, 7 months ago

To repeat: public education means that only the wealthy can get good education.

If you want the poor to have access to quality education than the solution is to privatize it.

observant 6 years, 7 months ago

So you are proposing that none of the poor be educated? Don't they deserve the right to an education so that they might become one of the elite rich?

Liberty_One 6 years, 7 months ago

observant (anonymous) replies…

"So you are proposing that none of the poor be educated? Don't they deserve the right to an education so that they might become one of the elite rich?"

Nope. That's what public school advocates are proposing.

observant 6 years, 7 months ago

No wonder the libertarians are considered total nutcases.

Liberty_One 6 years, 7 months ago

No, you're right. Public education is working out GREAT for the poor.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 7 months ago

And the alternative for them would be???

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 7 months ago

And the alternative for them would be???

voevoda 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty_One, if you are an example of someone whose education comes from "$100 per subject" materials and downloaded material from the internet, then it explains a lot about why your understanding of our country is so impaired. So much of the "educational" information available for free isn't of good quality. Without teachers, would-be learners are likely to be misled by glib, glitzy sites that conform to their pre-existing prejudices.

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

Don't forget your desire to repeal child labor laws, too.

voevoda 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty_One, You have once again demonstrated that you are an anarchist who regards all government functions as forms of oppression.
In fact, zoning has not restricted multi-family dwellings to the inner city; just look around all the suburban areas, and you'll see rental apartments all over. What zoning has accomplished is separating dangerous manufacturing from living space. Repealing all zoning would just degrade many of the residential neighborhoods where ordinary people live. In fact, the minimum wage has been a significant tool in improving the financial situation of the working poor. The only problem is that minimum wage has not kept up with inflation, so that a full-time minimum wage job can't support a family. Abolishing minimum wage would result in less-than-starvation wages for many workers, and eliminate them as a market for US-made manufactured goods. Privatizing education would leave most children uneducated. Public, mandatory education has created a citizenry who have the skills to advance themselves and this country. That's why the Founding Fathers set up public education as a basic pattern of our public life--instituting it in the Northwest Ordinance. Don't let complaints about the quality of public schools fool you: a sizable majority of Americans have the knowledge and skills they need to function as adults because of public schools. You pretend to be concerned about the poor, Liberty_One, but in reality you care only about yourself. Otherwise you wouldn't advocate removing the few benefits the working poor actually have.

devobrun 6 years, 7 months ago

Pitts tortures the metaphor....and begins 350 years ago. No discount of anything can change what was done over 50 years ago. We live here, now. EEOC has been around for decades and inner city black employment is the worst in the nation. Why? Because of racism? Because inner city youth are unemployable? Whatever the social engineers have been doing for the last 4 decades doesn't seem to be working. Why?

My view is that inner city life is broken. The whole concept of groups, gangs, coming together and joining , joining, joining so that you can have an identity is stultifying. With all the programs, organizations, and tribal identities, we create groups, not individuals. And the individual is lesser for it. When it comes time for that individual to leave his group and find employment, he doesn't know what to do. All he knows is the collective. He is unable to adapt to a new environment. So he stays in the gang, the tribe, the neighborhood......and rots.

Cast off group identity. Learn alternate realities to that which the government provides. Stop the welfare state by growing out of it. Value individuality and the can do spirit that built this nation of freedom. Make your own cookies.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Wait - really? Devo asserting that people should be individuals? I'm shocked.

Humans are both individuals and social animals, who like to belong to groups and join together.

I think that gangs, etc. serve as alternatives for those that don't feel they "belong" to mainstream society, and alternative "families" for those that have lousy families.

The better solution, to me, would be to help families be more functional and stable, and provide opportunities for inclusion in our broader society.

That way, they can be individuals, and also be part of groups, which is natural, while not needing to turn to negative ones like gangs.

And, everybody has some degree of resistance to change, not just disenfranchised inner city kids.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 7 months ago

You ( and I ) do not have a right to never be offended by the exercise of free speech.

independent_rebel 6 years, 7 months ago

This is true, Gandalf. Just like the dozens of folk along the curve at 23rd and Iowa this afternoon protesting abortion. They have a right to stand there and be annoying and distracting.

I just hope there were no car wrecks.

Fossick 6 years, 7 months ago

"We are perfectly free to dislike anything anyone says."

I think you missed the word 'never' in his statement.

Mike Ford 6 years, 7 months ago

oh, those poor outnumbered gop kids at Berkeley...go back to Orange County... affirmative action is the result of at least for indigenous peoples 300 years of inslavement at Catholic missions under father serra in southern California, state sanctioned genocide from the state of California from 1850 on, rape and forced prostitution of their women, allotment and congressional termination by the US Congress in the 1950's, and theft of arable lands, water, and timber. Being a dumb republican in California who ignores your history on the faux network may work there but not in the real world. Devonbrun....our identities existed before Europeans left there and tried to use land theft, Christianity, and the federal government to make us like you...I have my Chahta anumpuli.. we never got a portion of our land your government and sooners took from us.. celebrate america...

voevoda 6 years, 7 months ago

By this logic, I suppose, Liberty_One, that you'll agree that you're a hypocrite for using 1) pasteurized products (invented by a Frenchman); 2) white sugar (refinery process invented by a black man); 3) gunpowder (invented by the Chinese); 4) numerals (invented by Arabs); 5) alphabet (invented by the Phoenicians), etc. etc. Maybe only whites are entitled to claim rights to use all the inventions of the world?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 7 months ago

I had no idea Father Serra was a Republican.

Mike Ford 6 years, 7 months ago

actually rush and I'm surprised you depends on dialect whether it's Mississippi or Oklahoma dialect....and there's also an Alabama dialect since Alabama is a Choctaw word. I call your people redskins... do I put the N word after prairie or wood as some of my Lakota, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe acquaitances have been called? you need to look in the mirror before you speak...and to my knowledge Meskwaki people controlled the mining area in the Quad Cities area before the French asked permission to mine the area in the 18th century in Iowa. George Will nonsense can only go so far. You can sell it to your dimwit friends but not me. Oh, and please stop doing the tomahawk're not racist right???

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

If we must do away with affirmative action for colleges, we better do away with legacy enrollments as well. Continuing to allow people in based on an enrollment history in which people of color weren't allowed in tilts the playing field in favor of whites.

voevoda 6 years, 7 months ago

There's another way of structuring the bakesale: The list price of the brownie is $1.00. Students from inner city neighborhoods have to pay $2.50. Their brownies are the leftovers from the previous week. Students from small towns pay $1.00, plus a $1.00 fuel surcharge. Their brownies are a day old by the time they arrive. Students from rural areas must have the brownie mailed to them. They pay $1.00 for the brownie and $5.00 for shipping and handling. Students from working-class urban neighborhoods pay $1.00, but if they use a debit card, they have to pay an extra $0.25. Students from middle-class suburbs get a 5% discount (10% on Fridays), and so pay $0.95 or $0.90. They may buy a superior-quality Belgian chocolate brownie for an extra $1.00. Students from wealthy enclaves pay $2.00 for a superior-quality Belgian chocolate brownies. They also get a $1.00 kickback from the manufacturer and sufficient points on their credit card to buy an additional mini-brownie.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 7 months ago

Personally, I love the Christopher Elbow stuff at Dean & Deluca.

Mike Ford 6 years, 7 months ago

why explain....why waste time if I know you're're an american... it's your right to have the rest of the world laugh at you like peter griffin' right???? if you live so far this your only lifeline....someone needs to have human interaction...

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

Yes, it is only your opinion. Very possibly yours alone.

Mike Ford 6 years, 7 months ago

actually it was your party through Arnold Schwarzennegger who sought to prevent funded tribes from contributing to his opponents back in the day. it was your party that gave native peoples the likes of criminals like jack abramov and michael scanlon and tom delay to rob millions of dollars through lobbying and falsification and made tribal donations to politicians a no no. Mr. Obama signed into law the Cobell settlement agreement to pay back indigenous people for your countrie's theft. Republicans always cheat. Native peoples have known this for a long time. tom coburn played divide and conquer with brad carson a Cherokee US Representative. Republicans are sinti in my language.

pace 6 years, 7 months ago

Seeing those bimbos dressed up in indian costumes made me sick. i don't like racism, my freedom of speech to say it. Those teabaggers are low lifes.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 7 months ago

This post pre-removed for using a vulgar sexual term to refer to a disappointed progressive.

tomatogrower 6 years, 7 months ago

Pitts is right. Some people who didn't feel comfortable about homosexuals suddenly changed, because they didn't want to be identified with the Phelps. Let them have free speech. That will usually expose them for the bigots they are.

Fossick 6 years, 7 months ago

"Let freedom ring."

Leonard Pitts, ftw. Never thought I'd say that in my life.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 7 months ago

brownies, but would be required to remain in the kitchen baking them, preferably while barefoot and pregnant.

---nice to see ol' lennie pittsie is himself so free of prejudice.
thanks for making yourself the pot calling the kettle ... pittsie!

tomatogrower 6 years, 7 months ago

Well, the Tea Party wants to take us back to the "good ole days". My mother was given a lot of grief because she worked outside the home. She had to for us to live, but it wasn't considered proper for a "nice" woman.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 7 months ago

If we had a Jack in the Box, we would need to care about what is going on at UC-Berkl

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