Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: A "Race Based" Bake Sale? 26 September '11

Republicans are at it again - stirring up white people to think that they're the real victims of 400 years of slavery on this continent, and then implicitly redirecting that resentment against an African American President in an upcoming election.

This time it's the College Republicans at the University of California-Berkeley - who are hosting a bake sale to claim that white people are victimized by affirmative action.

Here's how they're doing it....

Muffins at the bake sale will sell for 2 bucks for white people.

$1.50 for Asians.

A dollar for Latinos.

75-cents for Blacks.

And only 25-cents for Native Americans.

Oh - and women get an additional 25-cents off each purchase.

UC Berkeley's student government unanimously condemned the bake sale - calling it - correctly - discriminatory.

But the President of the College Republicans - a fellow by the name of Shawn Lewis responded saying:

"We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point...It is no more racist than giving an individual an advantage in college admissions based solely on their race (or) gender."

Right - protest policies that aim to give minorities - who have been kept down for centuries - a strap to pull themselves up by - the old bootstrap thing - with a racist bake sale.

Makes perfect sense! No.

Here's the problem, which these kids are ignoring: How do we create a more equal society - a more just society - when one particular race and gender has had a 400-year economic head start on all the others?

This is called "White Privilege," and, frankly, most white people are unaware of it.

Born into it, it becomes like the air we breathe - invisible to us unless it's pointed out, or unless we're deprived of it.

Like the fact that the average wealth of white households in America is 20 times greater that of black households.

According to a Pew Research study in 2009 - white households own - on average - about $113,000 worth of wealth, mostly in housing and savings.

Black households on the other hand - own about five-and-a-half thousand dollars.

That's 20-to-1 - a staggering wealth inequality strictly along racial lines.

And for Hispanics - it's not much better - their average household wealth is one-eighteenth that of whites.

And this inequality has actually gotten worse over the last 25 years - not better.

Not only that - blacks still only earn about 57-cents on every dollar that whites earn - for Hispanics it's 59-cents.

And there's a variation on this called Male Privilege, that most women in the workplace can tell you all about - and, again, white men are generally unaware of or totally in denial of it.

Based on this data - if the College Republicans really wanted to show reality, instead of holding a bake sale with arbitrarily rigged prices - they should sell muffins and pay their workers based on the same wealth divisions in America.

As in - hire whites, blacks, and Hispanics to all do the same jobs - but pay black people only 10 bucks an hour - Hispanics only 11 bucks an hour - and pay the white men 20 dollars an hour - and the white women 17 dollars an hour.

The unemployment rate for white people in America is 8.0% - for blacks it's at a Depression era-level of 16.7% - and it's just over 11% for Hispanics.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn't suddenly make everything equal in America - it just laid the groundwork so that minorities can at least compete on a level playing field in the economy - something they were barred from doing for our nation's entire history.

And, of course, without Affirmative Action programs, there's no way the playing field could be imagined to be level, because even if the descendants of slaves jump into a field to compete against the descendants of twenty generations of slave owners, they're not starting from the same place.

And if a group of College Republicans in California - or even Members of Congress here in Washington, DC - think the Civil Rights Act alone was enough to give minorities a fair shake in America - then they really are naive - or just plain ignorant, or maybe bigoted.

According to the research done by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett at the Equality Trust - the United States ranks dead last in social mobility among the rest of the OECD nations - as in, it's more difficult in America for somebody to get out of poverty and join the middle-class - than it is anywhere else in the developed world.

When you add in institutional racism - the fact that TODAY when MIT did a study having identically qualified applicants for real jobs submit resume's to big companies, those with "African-American" sounding names were HALF as likely to get a callback as people with "White-sounding" names.

Sixty to 90 percent of housing units shown to whites were not shown to Blacks; 46 percent of whites get help from their family to make a down payment on first house, as opposed to 12 percent of African Americans - who on average pay a half-point higher interest on that mortgage.

And when it comes to education, regardless of the school, the studies are in as well.

Minority students are less likely to be placed in honors classes, even when justified by test scores.

And according to the CDC, when rates of serious school rule violations are matched one-for-one by race, nonetheless, people who are visibly minority students are more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled from school.

Racism is alive and well in America - particularly subtle forms of racism like I've just pointed out, combined with the reality of White Privilege.

And when used for political purposes, it can help win elections - look back at Herbert Walker Bush's Willie Horton ads, or the fact that Ronald Reagan gave his first speech after being nominated for President in Philadelphia, Mississippi - a little town of 6000 people in the middle of nowhere that's famous for only one thing - that back in the 1960s three civil rights workers were brutally tortured and murdered there in the 1960s.

This is why it's so important to call out race-baiting gimmicks like this one from the College Republicans at UC Berkeley for what they are.

Somebody should add to their required curriculum a class on White Privilege.

Because until White people figure out what every person of color in this nation already knows, things will continue to stay the same and, during economic downturns like this one, actually get worse.

That's The Big Picture.

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to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."
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