Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New York Times headline misses the point on diversity bake sale

The New York Times' Inaccurate Headline of the Week is "A 'Diversity Bake Sale' Backfires on Campus" from its September 27 issue.

The story is about a Republican student group at the University of California at Berkeley who planned to hold a bake sale where prices would vary depending on the buyer's race or gender. For example, white students would pay $2 for a pastry, while Asians would pay $1.50, Latinos $1, and blacks 75 cents. Women of all races would receive a 25-cent discount.

The point of the satirical event was to protest a proposed California law that would allow public universities to consider race, ethnicity and gender in college admissions.

The bake sale idea sparked some angry reactions, as well as support, and prompted debate over the proposed law.

So how, as the headline said, did the bake sale "backfire"?  Well, it didn't. The idea was to draw attention to the proposed law by showing how ludicrous it is to treat people differently based on the color of their skin or their genitalia. By that measure, the bake sale idea was spectacular success even before it took place. It prompted articles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and elsewhere. I live in California and wasn't even aware of the proposed law until I read articles about the "bake sale."

In the article, the student body president is quoted as saying that the bake sale has prompted complaints on campus. “Many feel the differential pricing is offensive and that it makes them feel unwelcome,” Vishalli Loomba said. Exactly! Treating people differently based on race or gender should bother you. That's the whole point.

You can read the story here.  The story is fine, just not the headline.


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Monday, September 12, 2011

Watching Chivas USA: All the wrong noise

I attended my first Chivas USA game last night at Home Depot Center and, even though I'm a big soccer fan, it will likely be a long time before I go back. The problem was noise -- more to the point, the wrong kind of noise.

Let me emphasize that I generally love noise at a live sporting event. I like games where the fans are shouting, screaming, and stomping their feet in response to the action. To be among thousands of people screaming "DE-fense!," or leaping to their feet simultaneously after a spectacular play is an exciting, shared experience.

But the noise at Home Deport Center was nothing like that. At each end, a group of fans played drums, banged sticks, sang and chanted nonstop throughout the game. A brass band played constantly at one corner. Throughout the stadium, people continually blew on vuvuzelas, those plastic horns that should be classified by the U.N. as sadistic torture devices.

In all, the stadium was filled from start to finish with a random nonstop din, completely disconnected to what was going on in the game. Not only was the constant noise annoying, it seemed to smother the type of shared cheering that makes sporting events fun. Even when some fans made an attempt to start the Wave it petered out pitifully -- no doubt in part because adjacent fans couldn't hear it coming.

It was like going to a park where a variety of groups are holding separate picnics, and everyone's blasting their boomboxes. Meanwhile, on an adjacent field, some guys are playing soccer. A few people occasionally glance at the game, but no one's really watching the game together.

For a much better soccer watching experience, I suggest watching the Seattle Sounders at their home field. I've seen two games there. At those games, there were various chants and music beforehand, but after kickoff all that stopped and the fans focused on the game. You could tell that everyone was watching the game closely, because even relatively minor plays brought outbursts of cheers (or groans).  It is that typed of shared experience that will bring me back to a stadium again and again.


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