An affirmative action bake sale is a campus protest event used by student groups to illustrate criticism of affirmative action policies, especially as they relate to college and graduate school admissions. According to one bake sale student leader, the goal of the technique is to "bring the issue of affirmative action down to everyday terms."
The bake sales offer to sell cookies at different prices depending on the customer's race and sex, imitating the racial and sexual preference practices of affirmative action. One idea of such bake sales is to demonstrate analogies between price discrimination and affirmative action. A typical pricing structure charges $1.00 for White males, $.75 for White females, $.50 for Latino, Black, Asian, and Native American males and $.25 for Latino, Black, Asian, and Native American females. The bake sales' hosts do not support this kind of preferential treatment; rather, they argue that this preferential pricing is analogous to the preferential treatment created by affirmative action policies.
These bake sales have been organized at many schools across the U.S., sometimes annually. Affirmative action bake sales have also taken place at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, the latest (in 2008) having been forcibly broken up by campus security.
The bake sales have met opposition, drawing crowds of students, sometimes facing opposition or restriction from campus administrations,often being accused of racism, and sometimes even being attacked. Additionally, some administrators have been accused of censorship and inappropriately advocating a political position. The 2007 documentary Indoctrinate U showed how some such censorship is often institutionalized into the university system.
Responding to an affirmative action bake sale being attacked at the University of Washington, the school's Board of Regents President Jerry Grinstein presented the opinion of many opponents of these events when he described "the statements in putting on a bake sale about affirmative action were tasteless, divisive and hurtful to many members of the university community." The student leader of a bake sale at UCLA addressed this issue of divisiveness, saying "we wanted to show how affirmative action is racial division, not racial reconciliation." Similarly, administrators at Bucknell University claimed that the bake sales violated the private university's discrimination policy.
Other criticisms of the concept claim that these bake sales do not take into account ingrained social factors that favor whites. An opinion column in the Houston Chronicle after a similar sale took place at Texas A&M University held that "Actions like these reinforce the common misconception that affirmative action policies give academically unqualified minority students a get-into-college-free card, and they ignore historical discrimination that denied nonwhites opportunities to be successful at any price, no matter their talents or intelligence." The editorial also praised school officials for not shutting down the sale.
At the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, the Graduate and Professional Students of Color student organization responded to a bake sale held by the Students for Individual Liberty by holding a White Privilege popcorn giveaway where white males received a full bag of popcorn, while women and non-whites received 1/3 of a bag.