Thursday, January 31, 2013

GW's Affirmative Action Bake Sale

As a native Washingtonian, I've witnessed my fair share of racist and discriminatory foolery, but GW's campus has hands down presented the most ignorant students pushing for "equality" that I think I have ever come across in my years in the district. I can recall about two years ago, in March of 2011, when GW College Republicans and GWYAF began advertising for an Affirmative Action bake sale they'd be hosting.  They planned to sale the classics of baked goods-- cookies, brownies, and cupcakes, however the prices were specialized and presented as "minority specials."  For example, a single cupcake would go for about four different prices; the White price, was the most expensive at about a dollar or two, and the prices deflated from that point, Asian prices were the second most expensive, following was a Female priced cake and lastly was the African American at the cheapest.  Not surprisingly, this caused an uproar among much of the student body, primarily the Black students, including myself.  

My initial reaction was anger, as with the Black Student Union, who decided to react against the bake sale but knowing how dangerous a racially charged mob of angry Black folk might appear on the campus of a PWI (Primarily White Institution) concerns were turned to responding and reacting not out of anger or ignorance, but to learn the arguments of the student organizations and then educate them on something they obviously knew little about and were hardly affected and effected by.  Their arguments were along the lines of minority students being admitted into the University at discounted tuition prices (scholarship) to fill a quota, lessening the chances of acceptance of qualified White students.  This implied, to me, that the minority students were somehow un- or under qualified and I knew this to be a false statement when I, myself had graduated as the Valedictorian of my class just two years prior.  Apparently affirmative action, according to these groups, promoted reverse-discriminatory practices. Considering that family legacy plays a large role in admittance, I just couldn't believe the bullshit.   

Long story short, the Bake Sale was postponed when the Orgs got wind of the protest that the Black Student Union planned.  The Bake Sale took place days later, as with the protest.  The Black Student Union hosted a Town Hall meeting with several African American, Africana Studies, and Sociology professors providing history on Affirmative Action, especially at GW.  The groups refused to attend the meeting.   

Affirmative action policies and programs were one of the things that came to mind after reading and discussing the Bell piece.  You all should be happy to scroll through this timeline of Black History at GW.  


  1. I remember the so-called Affirmative Action Bake Sale. When I first saw a sign, I (naively) thought the bake sale was supporting Affirmative Action policies. When I approached the group, however, I was sorely disappointed and embarrassed by my school. I was so shocked by the level of self-righteousness among the participants that I couldn't even confront them. I wish I had told them all that you so succinctly wrote here.

    I went to the Town Hall meeting and was happy at least to see others who were just as outraged as I was. More than anything the protest reminded me that there is racism embodied in this campus every day, and the College Republicans and YAF were audacious enough to speak it plainly. The bake sale was disrespectful to say the least.

  2. Danya, I found your post perhaps the most intriguing of this week's entries (sorry everyone else, yours were great too!).
    As an exchange student I am new to GW this academic year. The longer I am here, the more shocked I am by the blatant prejudice and often outright racism of several of the students here.

    I am not suggesting that English universities are without racism, in fact my home institution is situated in one of the most right-wing counties in the country. However I feel that, with the election late last year, much of the tension has come to the surface at this school and in America in general.

    I have heard some of the most shocking racially motivated comments of my life whilst studying here. One that stuck in my mind took place during one of the Presidential debate watch parties on campus. Obama at one point mentioned his respect for his single mother. A girl behind me remarked in a stereotyped accent "that's right, go home to your single momma." Whilst the election period for me was one the best of my life, it also made me perhaps the most angry I have ever been.

    Just to clarify, I am not anti-GW by any means. I just find it puzzling sometimes.

  3. I remember that bake sale as well and being completely dumbfounded that these groups would be interested in associating themselves with that mode of criticism. But I also think that not all GW College Republicans and YAF members agreed with that message (I'm not a member of either, just defending the defenseless here).

    I think that there is some basis for criticism of affirmative action, but it's more in the sense that we have difficulty discerning whether or not we are fulfilling the mission of affirmative action. Ideally, the policy would not focus solely on race (which is primarily the assumption that the CR's and YAF members were relying on). It was meant for minorities who had a history of disadvantage to be given opportunities that other Americans received. But this also creates a problem, because we don't know when we have hit a certain threshold and have no quantitative way to know whether we have reached a goal of "more" equality. Where do we draw the line? And, as this NYT article points out, MLK knew this when affirmative action was developed. He said, "Many white workers whose economic condition is not too far removed from the economic condition of his black brother will find it difficult to accept special consideration to the Negro in the context of unemployment, joblessness, etc. and does not take into sufficient account their plight (that of the white worker).” And on a broader scale, the article also mentions that in the 200 most selective colleges in the country, less than 5% of students come from the bottom 25% of the income spectrum. I find that figure both astounding and troubling.

    So I think that affirmative action is completely necessary, but we face a difficult task in the coming years of trying to figure out whether we need to make the considerations more strict, less strict, more inclusive, or more narrow. I also believe that a mechanism by which we measure the outcomes is imperative to the success of such an act.

  4. And here's the link to that article. Forgot to attach it:

  5. Dayna,

    Your post about the Affirmative Actin Bake Sale is necessary for us to think through on an extended level. I am glad to see that it has received responses from your colleagues. As we know in the aftermath of Brown v. Board, anti-racist and anti-segregation policies elicit overwhelming amounts of backlash and forms of refusal that hold on to white supremacist ideology. Though the hierarchy of pricing is appalling and infuriating, it should not shock us as we are more and more living in a country in which a scale of value is attributed to individuals. Just look at the crisis in public education or the humanities. What I find most upsetting is that these forms of resistance to equality can persist at an institution of higher learning, but perhaps my reaction also entails a degree of blindness to the realities of how power is lived and distributed.

    Thank you for posting the timeline as well. It is really useful. One date/event that stood out to me from the timeline was in 1938, the President of GW defended the stance of excluding African American students from attending the university because Howard was right up the street. This stance was further based in “observed” “fact.” I wonder how we can be attentive to similar sorts of assertions today.


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