THE BLOG
09/28/2011 04:39 pm ET | Updated Nov 28, 2011

Racist Republicans in Berkeley?

There's a big huff and puff going on in Berkeley. Them hippies are caught up in the storm of yet another conniption because of them meanie Republicans. They're throwing snowball fight words like "racist" and "ignorant" at the poor outnumbered Republicans who claim they are the bulwark against the forces of socialism and communism.

So what's the hubbub all about? Well, there's this article for example talking about how the Republicans are up in arms about the whole affirmative action madness again. They hate the whole idea, and they've put on a bake sale to make a point. They are charging white folk $2 per cupcake, Asians $1.50, Latinos $1.25, blacks $1.00, and all women in each category get an extra shiny quarter discount.

The hippies, liberal and the rest of the bleeding hearts decry bigotry; that it's inherently racist to charge different prices for cupcakes based solely on race. "That's just our point!" insist the Republicans. "It's racist to allow browns and blacks and yellows and blues and greens to pay less than whites."

I couldn't agree more. If that was all it was, then the whole idea is racist.

But that's just it, isn't it? That is not all there is to it.

Let's first start with the goal of our society (and certainly affirmative action) that I think both sides agree upon: the point of it all is to make sure everyone has an equal and fair chance. The same opportunity. What you do with that opportunity is your own choice. But we start with the same potential.

So where's the breakdown? Let's run with the bake sale scenario. Let's assume the purpose of the bake sale is identical to the point of affirmative action -- to give everyone one of every race an equal opportunity. So let's say you rent out a room and bring in people of different races to buy some cupcakes.

Scenario 1: Each person has about $20 in their pockets. You charge $2 per person, regardless of race, and all is fair. Nothing is racist here.

Scenario 2: Each person has $20 in their pockets like before, but you charge $2 for the pink people, $1.50 for the green people, $1.25 for the blues. Now, this is racist. Everyone had the same opportunity to buy (i.e.: $20 in their pockets), but you discriminated based on their color. Without any rational basis. Racist, racist and racist. This is similar to the bake sale on the campus of Berkeley. On that campus, almost every student has roughly the same amount of money in their pockets, more or less. So it is racist to charge differently based on race.

Scenario 3: The same room, the same bake sale, and the white people have $20 in their pockets. But the blue people only have $15 (their people are not as wealthy as the whites because historically they were not allowed to make as much money as the whites -- they weren't allowed to work in the high paying jobs). The green people only have $10 since for most of their histories, they weren't even allowed to work and make money maybe because they were slaves and forced into labor. Based on this disparity in the amount of money you bring into the room (i.e.: the opportunity you have to buy cupcakes), it actually does make sense to charge the pinks less than the whites. There is a rational basis for the price disparity.

I think that is the point the Republicans here are missing. All things are not equal. If they were, of course it's racist to charge different amounts based on race.

The black folk and the Latino folk, for example, do not arrive at the glorious gates of the university admissions office with the full $20 in their pockets like the whites do. So to make their chances of entry commensurate with that of the whites, you charge them less for a cupcake. At least until our society finally washes out the vestiges of our racist past.