On Wednesday, October 26, the Young Conservatives of Texas hosted an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale”, where store-bought cookies were being sold at various prices in relation to the race and gender of the people who wished to buy them. Asian-American and white students were charged the highest prices, while black and Native people were given the lowest costs and women were charged slightly less across the board. The event is part of a history of racism from YCT. In 2013, they attempted to hold a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” game where they would offer gift cards to students for catching individuals walking around campus with “illegal immigrant” signs, but were forced to cancel it after a massive outcry. In that same year, they hosted another “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” which was less eventful than this year’s.
This time, in less than two hours hundreds of students assembled in the West Mall area to express their indignation at the blatant bigotry of the event, while thousands watched the situation unfold by live stream. Though the YCT was confronted with mass opposition, they shakily stood their ground, unwilling to listen to or engage with the dissenting voices and concede that they were wrong in any way. This encounter, with the opposing sides arguing back and forth without any results, continued on for hours until they both eventually ran out of steam and the confrontation began to die down. No conclusion was reached, the reactionaries were not run off, and ultimately nothing happened as a result of the confrontation apart from students of color feeling more unsafe and unwelcome than ever around their fellow students.
Meanwhile, the University Democrats, who were tabling nearby, tried to co-opt the people’s anger into voting for their party. Racism is not a partisan issue that can be solved through the political system, but an issue of the masses of oppressed people versus the ruling class, which both parties are an integral part of. The Republicans make no attempt to hide their commitment to white supremacy, while the Democrats are just as racist but more skillful at hiding it under liberal rhetoric. Bill Clinton’s administration, after all the support black voters gave him, proceeded to devastate working-class families with welfare reform and other cuts to social services, condemn black children as “superpredators”, and amp up mass incarceration with tougher sentencing laws, while Barack Obama presided over militarized police repression of black protest as well as record numbers of deportations and drone strikes. The “progressive” Democratic government of Austin is complicit in the gentrification that is driving black and Chicanx people out of the city at unprecedented rates, the murders of David Joseph and Larry Jackson, and the many other crimes of the Austin Pig Department.
There was one positive takeaway from the event, however. About an hour into YCT’s event, a small group of masked students made their way through the crowd, swept YCT’s materials off the table, and made off with the cookies. The reaction from the crowd was one of elated shock. In a place where the private property and “free speech” rights of racists are more sacred principles than the safety and well being of students of color, this type of direct action was unexpected. This small group was effectively able to do more in shutting down the racist event than the hundreds of students who spoke, but did not act. By taking away YCT’s material that enabled them to spread their message and causing the YCT a financial loss, these people ensured that the ability for YCT to continue onward with their bigotry was significantly hindered.
To be clear, affirmative action has not made UT more equitable. Today, black students make up only 4% of the student body compared to 12% of Texas’s population and have their admissions applications rejected at a higher rate than white applicants. The main beneficiaries of affirmative action are more well-off members of oppressed groups, rather than the most oppressed among them; for most working-class black and brown Texans, a degree from UT is still out of reach. And increased representation will not lead to liberation; if anything, it can actually serve to reinforce white supremacy by giving it a multicultural sheen. The first black president did nothing to stop police murders of black people, ramped up US imperialist terrorism against the people of the Middle East and Africa, and presided over more deportations than any other president. Corporations and universities talk about diversity and enact affirmative action policies not because they want to dismantle oppressive systems and make reparations for centuries of exploitation, but because it’s good for their profits and makes them look progressive. But despite the flaws of affirmative action, we oppose all reactionary attacks on it such as Abigail Fisher’s lawsuit (#StayMadAbby) or YCT’s “Affirmative Action Bake Sale”. With explicit George Wallace-style calls for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” out of fashion, opposition to affirmative action is the banner racists fly today to oppose education or employment opportunities for non-white people. Like “All Lives Matter”, they are not motivated by any true concern about inequality or discrimination, but by the reaction of whiteness under attack.
The Revolutionary Student Front applauds the action of the students who boldly stood up to racism by expropriating YCT’s baked goods and sweeping their racist propaganda off the table. Not only did these students directly prevent YCT from continuing their racist fundraiser, they showed that we don’t have to wait patiently for change to happen through the system – we can make change ourselves. We encourage all students who want to fight against racism to follow their example, and the example of the anti-fascists who took it upon themselves to clean up racist graffiti from the Blanton last week (see our statement on the UT Antifa 3 for more information). Enough with the petitions, the peaceful and non-disruptive protests, the electoral campaigns, and the Student Government votes! If these methods really threatened the system, they would be illegal. Working within the white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist institution of the university will never lead to real change; real change will only happen when the masses of oppressed people rise up and seize power. We have the power to fight back, and we ought to use it. As Mao Zedong told the students of revolutionary China: IT IS RIGHT TO REBEL!