10/05/2011 01:00 pm ET Updated Dec 05, 2011

UC Berkeley "Racist" Bake Sale Sparks Controversy

By Alana Patrick
St. Olaf College

Not often does one associate brownies, cookies and cupcakes with hot-topic issues such as race and gender. However, a student group at UC Berkeley managed to do just that, provoking nationwide controversy over their September 27th "increase diversity" bake sale, which revolved around selling items at racially-adjusted prices. Berkeley College Republicans promoted the event -- meant to be satirical -- in an effort to protest SB 185, a pending Affirmative Action-like bill.

An announcement on the group's Facebook page (which has since been removed, but can be found here) advertised hierarchical pricing for baked goods, ranging from $2 per pastry for white men to $.25 for Native Americans. Meanwhile, all women received a discount of $.25. The varying prices were established in order to "ensure the fairest distribution, and make sure there are a DIVERSE population of RACES of students getting BCR's delicious baked goods," according to the flyer.

The Facebook announcement sparked instant response, with comments ranging from outraged to enthusastic. Student Skylar Hogan-Van Sickle wrote on the Facebook event page,

"I'm ashamed to know that I go to the same school with people who would say stuff like this. I'm really trying to figure out how someone can be this hateful."

Meanwhile, others claimed approval: "I 100 percent support this event," Alan Yu wrote. "I think it really calls into question our societal values and forces us to think critically about what the government is proposing to do." Beyond Facebook, the bake sale gained national attention from news organizations such as CNN, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post.

Despite the event's controversy, it went through as planned with no occurrences of assault or violence. Three hundred cupcakes and nearly 200 cookies were sold, Berkeley College Republicans President Shawn Lewis told CNN. Did the group make their point in protesting Affirmative Action-like legislation? Perhaps. In any case, by catching public attention, the bake sale did prompt Americans to ponder and debate national issues, which in some ways, can be considered a victory for everyone.