Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referenced a student's name. His name is actually Walter Baker. The Daily Lobo apologizes heavily for any confusion.
A bake sale held by conservative group Turning Point USA drew more than 100 students Thursday to the north side of the Student Union Building on the University of New Mexico campus — but it wasn’t the baked goods that drew the crowd.
The group was selling muffins, cookies and other snacks, charging Asians $1.50, Caucasians $1.00 and African Americans and Hispanics 50 cents, which is meant to mirror affirmative action, according to a sign made for the sale.
“This replicates affirmative action in the way that Asians are most affected by affirmative action because they perform the best in society,” said TPUSA Secretary Christian Portilla. “They are the richest population, and they perform the best on tests and that kind of thing, so if an Asian and a Hispanic, both having the same test scores and that kind of thing, the Hispanic will often get in over the Asian, because (admissions committees) just think they’re oppressed.”
Group President Jacob Traunero said the intent of the event was not to anger the community, but to “poke fun” at racism.
“It’s basically to poke fun at the affirmative action and be like, ‘Hey this is wrong,’ so it’s wrong to charge people different based on their race, so is it okay to do that on the government level?” he said. “A Hispanic with the same grades as an Asian will get in every time at certain universities.”
By hosting their bake sale and engaging in conversations with the community, TPUSA wants to draw attention to what they think is an unfair system.
“To the public eye, it doesn’t look very catering, and I think that was kind of the point, to create this shock,” said new TPSA member Raquel Lopez.
Lopez and Traunero said affirmative action is wrong, because it uses an “unfair” system that is not based on merit to admit minorities to universities.
“Affirmative action is wrong, you can’t just assume by the color of someone’s skin that they’re worse off than someone who’s white,” Traunero said. “A white person could be in poverty, and then a Mexican could be really well off, you can’t just assume that because of their race that they’re automatically worse off in society, that’s very racist.”
Portilla, who identifies as Mexican, thinks that affirmative action laws victimize minorities.
“I grew up in a very good household, and I think it is kind of wrong that I have to be almost treated as a victim; you know you’re a Mexican, so you’re deemed as already poor and not as smart as other people in society,” he said.
Students should not be accepted to col lege based on the color of their skin, but by their character, merit and qualifications, Portilla said.
Tensions in the crowd grew when Walter Baker, graduate student at UNM, among others, came in contact with the event’s organizers and threatened to knock down the TPUSA’s signs. Baker then asked if the group was going to call the police if the signs were knocked down.
Baker said the group was supporting white supremacist views.
After threating to knock down the signs several times and yelling over the crowd at the organizers, Baker said the views they held were “irrational,” adding he did not incite or commit violence.
“The viewpoint this group held was irrational in terms of advocating against equality,” he said. “So when you’re dealing with an irrational point of view it is not rational to debate it, the next move is to try to not give it a platform.”
Baker said he was “weaponizing a certain space” that was available to him “in self-defense of the people that that group targeted on campus,” adding he did not incite or commit violence at the event.
UNM’s campus is a place to feel safe, and Baker was trying to defend that space, he said.
“People are advocating for dismantling of measures that would protect people of color, so I’m going to do what I can do to get them to leave these spaces as a way to defend people of color, who are going to be the victims of what they want to do here,” Baker said.
TPUSA is not an officially chartered UNM student organization and the event held on Thursday was not approved by campus officials, according to a UNM spokeswoman.
The group ended their bake sale early when UNM Police Department officers arrived on scene and one of the group’s signs was stolen by a woman on roller skates.
Celia Raney is the news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Celia_Raney.