Berkeley Bake Sale, MSA 11, Display The Unversity of California Leftists’ Playbook – And Their Hypocrisy
As CNN reports, and as Kathleen covered yesterday, the Berkeley campus is up in arms over the Berkeley College Republicans’ Increase Diversity Bake Sale. The publicity stunt, scheduled for today, is intended to show the discrimination inherent in affirmative action by selling cupcakes at different prices based on one’s level of “minorityness.”
While Affirmative Action Bake Sales are old hat, the response by the left provides a perfect opportunity to explain the University of California (UC) left’s racial playbook. The UC left has a consistent strategy for converting real or imagined racist incidents into political gain, particularly in the pursuit of censorship or policies that favor specific identity groups.
They portray such incidents as symptoms of a dangerous campus climate, thus requiring policies to repair a community that is guilty of the crime of being the sort of place where such vicious psychic injuries can be inflicted. Of course, the left only seems to care about hostile campus climates when the identities of the victims and perpetrators fit their narrative of “powerful” groups oppressing weaker ones. As I will show below the fold, these leftists’ defense of the often anti-Semitic, terrorist-supporting, and/or illegal activities of the Muslim Student Association puts the lie to any claims that they are pursuing universalistic anti-prejudice goals or are truly concerned about the dangers of a campus climate where hate of any sort flows freely.
As an old UC warrior, the events at Berkeley are a bit surreal to me. I witnessed the first high-profile Affirmative Action Bake Sale at UCLA in 2003, which prompted a protracted battle between then-California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres and colorful, bomb-throwing College Republican shocktavist Andrew Jones. I also recall the spate of copycats and repetitions, which ultimately led to the tactic becoming cliche and falling out of practice by the time I was running the organization a year and a half later. However, due to high turnover, college communities have short institutional memories, so no idea remains unoriginal for long.
The UC left is responding with its usual claims of critical and widespread psychological injury. When someone says or does something offensive, whether it be legitimately unacceptable (e.g. the Compton Cookout at UCSD, or UCLA student Alexandra Wallace’s infamous “Asians in the Library” video), or just political speech they disagree with, the UC left rhetorically drops to the ground and writhes in pain like an athlete trolling for a foul or free time out.
The idea that an event has caused mass mental trauma and makes people feel unsafe, and that thus there must be a change in campus climate, is key. In widening the definitions of victims and perpetrators to include the entire campus, they can turn isolated incidents into indicators that fundamental reform is needed.
As there will always be at least a few fools and villains of any given variety, they will always be able to find incidents to generalize into political capital. The mere existence of basic human failings is enough to render their claims of a bigoted campus unfalsafiable.
Now I am sure that some such activists may in fact be traumatized. For those that believe American society is full of bigots out to oppress them at every turn, I can see how an event they may see as confirmation of that worldview could shake them up in ways that, to give real and relevant examples, left wing activists at UCLA calling me a kike or posting a column I wrote on my dorm room door with the word Jew and horns drawn on my picture never did. But fear and distrust of American society is an explanation, not a justification, and no excuse for cultivating and exploiting fears of prejudice for political gain.
Note also that mental traumas and safe campus climates are close cousins of the legal concepts “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and “hostile learning/working environment.” The latter is being used by feminists at Yale to take the same strategies described in this article to the next level, in this case bringing on a Department of Justice investigation.
Meanwhile back at Berkeley, sudent government officials are dutifully towing the “campus climate” line:
Here is Joey Freeman, the student government External Vice President:
Joey Freeman, a spokesman for the student body association, said… “It is very offensive to many communities on campus,” Freeman said. “We try to promote a healthy campus climate. Events like this bake sale get in the way of respect for one another.”
…and Vishalli Loomba, the President:
Loomba, the 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.”
Loomba described the situation as a “campus climate issue.”
The next step is to issue a list of demands, often their generalized political wish list in whole or in part, which are required to ensure that “underrepresented minorities” feel safe on campus. The Berkeley left has not finalized them, but it is working on it.
Additionally, there is the ritual shaming, already well underway at Berkeley. A public condemnation by student government, the administration, often the student newspaper (although their editorial was much fairer this time than I expected), and other assorted groups is used to isolate the transgressors of political correctness and tell the campus what right-thinking people are to think and do.
When it comes to serious action, however, there is fortunately not that much the radicals can do directly. UC student governments are immensely powerful in certain ways – they have millions of dollars to spend each year and often have representatives appointed to key administrative and academic senate bodies.
However, their funding must, by current constitutional law, be viewpoint-neutral, much of what they want to censor is free speech, and affirmative action policies are inherently slow to develop and banned by Proposition 209.
They can, however, earmark funds for the groups making the accusations and their pet projects, arrange for assorted complicated end runs around Proposition 209, and create assorted initiatives to inculcate certain views. They can also shame their potential opponents into submission.
Loomba and Freeman, for instance, are from the Student Action (SA) political party. SA, a party supported by Fraternity/Sorority, Preprofessional, Jewish, and other sorts of students, sometimes including College Republicans and/or College Democrats, is the moderate alternative to the extreme CalSERVE, the party made up largely of groups representing ethnic minorities and other identity or far-left organizations. (At UCLA, I was a leader of a sister party to Student Action, and the coalitions there were similar)
SA is the party that blocked student government support for divestment from Israel at Berkeley, and in this matter, they could have been much worse, with many affirming the College Republicans’ right to free speech even while condemning them, and declining to seek punishment for the group beyond harsh words.
The first two items under “Values” on SA’s web site are Diversity of Opinion and Freedom of Expression. But yet, even they are parroting the “campus climate” party line, because they cannot stand up to the mighty race card, and as liberals, many are not so willing to pay a political price to defend the free speech rights of Republicans.
Also in the news last week were the “MSA 11,” a group of Muslim Student Association/Union (The name differs from campus to campus) members who systematically heckled and disrupted a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine. Ten were charged and convicted last week of assorted misdemeanors by an Orange County jury. In the past, members of UC MSA/U chapters (and UCI in particular) have regularly held events featuring Holocaust revisionists and deniers, terrorist supporters, and purveyors of conspiracy theories such as the Jews orchestrating 9/11 or controlling the media . Their members have sometimes admitted support for terrorist groups and wiping out the Jews. Back when I was a student, I personally was told by a MSA member that Jews slaughter Muslim babies and use their blood for ritual purposes, and before my time (but not long before 9/11), the UCLA Muslim Student newsmagazine praised Osama bin Laden.
Yet, the same groups that seem so keen on protecting the campus climate and ensuring that no groups are made to feel uncomfortable ally themselves with the Muslim Student Association/Union, and have defended the MSA 11. Organized, borderline-violent, murder-advocating anti-Semitism is apparently not indicative of a problem with the campus climate compared to some lone fool ranting on YouTube.
This is no surprise coming from the sorts of extremist non-Muslim identity organizations whose members called me and my friends kikes, gringos, gabachos, and race traitors (if non-white), told us to go back to various European countries we weren’t from, issued death threats, and published poems about Jewish media conspiracies and 9/11.
However, few know of such behaviors. Many merely see students fighting bigotry. But so long as these groups do not condemn MSA/U’s anti-Semitism, their claims to sincerely oppose hatred of all kinds rings hollow, and their actions reek of political opportunism.