Bake Sale (An Open Letter to the young Berkeley Activists and Revolutionaries)
Dear Berkeley Activists and Revolutionaries: I wonder what would have happened if you ignored the ignorance and stayed focused on your mission instead of falling into “their” trap? I ask the question, because I think we inadvertently empower (give life to) ignorance by focusing our energy on it. Surely you must be aware that the young Republicans expected this kind of outrage, and attention.
- Do you think this story became national news because of what they did or how you reacted?
- Do you think they were as surprised by your reactions as you were by their actions?
- Do you think the amount of attention given to this incident was a surprise to them?
I don’t know how many times in my past we’ve deviated from our path and lost focus on where we were going. All because someone dressed in black face, called us the “N” word, put non-flattering images in the newspaper, painted racists images on the buildings, or even made threats. Each time we had an emotional response, demanded justice, an apology, and/or expulsion. Unfortunately, that urgency, that energy we expended fighting against each occurrence of ignorance took us away from our mission. In retrospect, we should have used the events as fuel to unite us. Not in the form of a reactive protest, but as a catalyst to help us further our goals. As a driving factor to help us work together to become so powerful as a community that there would be nothing they could do to slow our progress.
Emotion is good, but we need to learn to maintain our focus and ask the right questions before reacting.
- Is this event something that will prevent us from doing what we need to do?
- Is it an obstacle directly in our path or a distraction designed to make us lose focus on our mission?
- What should we do to address this issue in a way that continues to move us forward as a community?
If you talk to people who have stood where you’re standing, they will undoubtedly tell you this occurrence of racism is nothing new. They will tell you they too were outraged and protested. Then they will sigh, because it still continues to happen. They will sigh, because we still continue to react in many of the same ways you have when faced with similar situations. Why haven’t things changed? My guess, we too often fall into the trap of reacting like puppets to our environmental stimuli instead of recognizing these occurrences of ignorance as opportunities to propel us. It doesn’t change because we haven’t changed enough; we are predictable.
By now, you may be wondering why do I care. I care because I have experienced racism in all aspects of my life; from childhood through college and beyond. I understand completely what it’s like to have ignorance thrown in your face. I know what it’s like to encounter both overt and covert racism. I have stood in your shoes and reacted the same way you have. I care, because I want you to understand and use what I’ve learned from my past for your current and future situations. I care because I want, no the community needs you to succeed. Not in preventing people from being racist, but in becoming intelligent enough to prevent it from altering your life.
If you want to win, you must stay at least two steps ahead instead of two steps behind. You must be proactive, be able to anticipate what will happen, and have your game plan in place before it does. Just thought I would share, thank you for reading.
Below is additional information on my intent and reasons for posting this piece. Hopefully this will add clarity (posted on 9/30/2011)
Let me clarify something about this piece and my intent. My piece is not about the Bake sale but rather the key moments that occur during the course of our journey to achieve our goals and our response to those moments. In this case the underlying goal is increasing the opportunities of a diverse population of students to gain a high quality education in California (the repeal of Prop 209). I am very clear of the dishonest and racist motives behind Prop 209 and the long term and immediate impact it had on our educational opportunities.
That being said, I chose to use the title Bake Sale because it depicts a key moment in this struggle. My intent is to point out to the students and community members of the campus that by choosing to be in arms about the bake sale, the focus has essentially shifted away from their underlying goes which they were working towards prior to the bake sale and essentially shifted the entire dialogue. As a result, many major news outlets are reporting on the bake sale and racism while avoiding the real underlying concerns.
Had the community maintained it’s focus on its true goals and not had an emotional response to the Young Republicans obvious ploy to play on our emotions they would have been more successful in crafting their struggle in their words instead of in the context of a bake sale.
My intent is to share my past experience and knowledge to encourage them to always be diligent and certain of the implications of their actions. In this case, you’re putting together a plan and a coalition designed to tackle the issue of lack of access to resources and opportunities by the minority population. During your effort you’re faced with an event that tugs at your emotions. You choose to respond resoundingly to the event, and in the process lose some of your ability to communicate your true purpose.
The bake sale could be any series of events designed to tug at our emotions and distract us from our true goal. We need to become more cognizant of this fact and be constantly mindful of our long term strategy and goals.