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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