On February 1, a group of Clemson students dubbing themselves the “official” campus chapter of Turning Point USA, staged an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale.” The display table featured an assortment of cookies listed at different prices. That wouldn’t be worth mentioning except for how the prices were assigned – not based on the type or number of cookies but on the ethnicity of the would-be consumer.
The sign read, “Asian $1.50, White $1.00, Hispanic $.50, Black $.20, Native Am FREE.”
My first thought was, What in the blankety-blank is this blank?!? And I was not alone in having that kind of reaction.
More than a few Black students at Clemson were offended by the event, especially since it was held on the first day of Black History Month. They voiced their concerns on local media, and it wasn’t long before national media figures weighed in.
Radio and television personality Charlamagne tha God (a.k.a. Charleston native Lenard McKelvey) took the controversy to the airwaves of his nationally syndicated The Breakfast Club. He called the Clemson Turning Point USA chapter his “Donkey of the Day” and lumped them in with a broader slate of bad actors across the country.
“I’m tired of us being the most unserious country on the planet,” he said. “Everybody is just doing … things. There is absolutely no thought going into [what] everybody is doing. It feels like everybody is trying to get into the Rock ’n’ Troll Hall of Fame.”
Senior engineering major Bethany Sparks wrote an eloquent letter outlining her distaste:
“I understand that everyone has the right to free speech and their own opinions, but I will not have people tell me that my life and my accomplishments were handed to me, by a group of people who have yet to acknowledge their own privilege. Their message that White people have to do more, pay more, to receive the same opportunities is preposterous.”
And that is the underlying sentiment for a lot of what is going on wrong in this country right now. White people — not all — have convinced themselves they are the victims of the oppression and discrimination many of them – not all – inflict upon others. They have convinced themselves — not all — everything that has come up short for them in their lives is somehow the fault of someone else, usually someone else with brown skin.
Or it is the fault of other white people who are shortchanging them to accommodate the interests of people with brown skin. This is the point CUTPUSA was trying to make, as they clarified in a statement the day after the controversial stunt.
“The purpose of the ‘Bake Sale’ was to highlight admission policies implemented by various universities, such as Yale, that openly favor applicants based on race. We were not suggesting in any way that individuals at Clemson did not work hard to be here.”
A spokesman for the group told WYFF-TV their members were protesting affirmative action at Harvard and the University of North Carolina and not Clemson. In fact, the spokesman said the group was not familiar with Clemson’s admissions policies.
To which I say, who gives a blankety-blank about admissions policy at Yale, Harvard and UNC?!? And if you do, why not go to Yale, Harvard or UNC to set up your stupid table of cookies? Why bring that mess to Clemson?
There’s the thoughtlessness Charlamagne is talking about. These idiotic “affirmative action bake sales” are nothing new. They’ve occurred on campuses around the nation for years now. CUTPUSA did something just to be doing something. Something they got from their parent organization or saw on a website somewhere.
In the 1960s, it was common for the powers that be to blame outside agitators for racial unrest. Why make changes to the social order if locals were happy with the way things were? At least back then, when there actually were outside agitators, they had boots on the ground beside locals.
Now, conservative agitators spread their influence on radio and television and online by way of message boards and social media. They issue marching orders, wind up their minions and point them in the direction of the nearest “reason we can’t have nice things.” These unthinking locals like CUTPUSA charge off so they can report back to the parent group, “Look what we did!”
As of this writing, Clemson hasn’t issued a formal response to the stunt, but I really hope they “look what CUTPUSA did” and make clear the university does not endorse such foolishness.
Because I can guarantee every Black student at Clemson, every Black student thinking of going to Clemson, and Clemson’s Black alumni are all looking. Closely.
Terry E. Manning is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at email@example.com.