A Black/Brown person on the Black and Brown Forum

Brandi Dye
Jan 13, 2016 · 4 min read

Because Drake is a hub of cool political things, I was able to attend the Black and Brown Forum. The entire forum was set up 30 years ago by Wayne Ford and Mary Campos, to ask politicians questions that were pertinent to minority communities. As a black citizen, I felt that this forum was perfect for me. The forum also provided a great opportunity for the Democratic candidates to be more likable in a more casual setting, despite it being the same stage they shared for a debate two months ago.

Per Democratic National Committee rules, each candidate appeared before a panel of moderators separately. Each candidate got about 30 minutes of discussion. Bernie Sanders was the first to step on stage, and unsurprisingly he did not vary from his message. Sanders got in a couple of Clinton disses, insinuating that her nomination is not as inevitable as previously assumed. Sanders was able to go into his normal rant on the disappearing middle class, and the terror that is Wall Street when he was asked about black unemployment.

Sanders did do some professional politician-ing. He non-answered a few questions, giving the circular responses politicians are known for. When asked about whether or not people incarcerated for marijuana crimes in states that have legalized marijuana, Sanders never answered the question.

In a terrible question asked by the moderators during rapid-fire questioning, Sanders was asked where more progress needed to be made: racism or sexism. Who okayed that question? Can we not agree that minorities and women continually get the short end of the stick? We all know that our current systems are made for white males. Also during rapid-fire, Sanders was able to get some laughs from the crowd by saying that living in the White House would be “more like public housing” and therefore not off-brand for a Democratic socialist. The college-aged crowd who tend to “Feel the Bern” ate it up.

Martin O’Malley was up next and it was refreshing to see him able to speak to an audience without being ignored by moderators. O’Malley was asked why the Democratic Party candidates were not racially diverse, despite being referred to as “the party of inclusivity.” O’Malley, like many white guys before him, reached into his pocket and pulled out his tokens, naming two of his Latino staffers. As someone who has been the token black kid, I recognized it. Smooth Marty, but not smooth enough.

In my opinion, O’Malley is inherently likable because he is attractive. Anybody who follows me on Twitter might have noticed me mention it once… or twice. He is currently the candidate with the least to lose so he can do things like blatantly dis the DNC. O’Malley outright blamed the DNC for Hillary’s lead in the polls. It was intense, and he made no apologies.

Because I hate everything, even super-hot Democratic candidates, O’Malley’s appearance left a lot to be desired. O’Malley answered all of the questions he was asked with stats about things he had done in the past. At this point, I don’t care what magic he worked in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland, I want to know his plans for the future. And at one point, when a Grand View student asked a really great question about racially integrating college administrations, O’Malley seemed to not have an answer so he started in on his plan for debt-free higher education. Yea… that’s nice and all, but a real-live college student had a great question that did not get the answer it deserved. The real takeaway from O’Malley is that he thinks he could surprise everyone on caucus night. Awwww it is so precious that he thinks he has a snowflake’s chance in hell for the Democratic nomination.

Honestly, O’Malley is not a bad candidate but he is not making enough of a splash, and if Sanders can do it, he cannot blame it all on the DNC. Honestly, I think O’Malley would have had a chance at a Vice Presidential candidacy had he not run. He has the necessary likability, and just enough experience to be seen as refreshing but not completely clueless.

The forum’s big closer was, of course, Hillary Clinton. I do not know whose idea it was for Clinton to go last, but it was a bad call for the live audience. We all know how long winded Clinton’s answers can be and it was a little bit painful for an audience who had been in the auditorium for nearly 3 hours. It was even more excruciating because the first questions Clinton was asked were about deportation and foreign policy. Clinton loves to remind the American public about her experience in foreign policy. Lots of long answers, lots of name-dropping countries.

My favorite thing that Clinton said was about her issues with the “school to prison pipeline” and her desire for a “cradle to college pipeline.” I like the concept and the alliteration. When answering questions about justice reform, Clinton pointed out the perks of rehabbing our citizens instead of incarcerating them, both morally and fiscally.

One of the better questions asked during the forum was about terrorism: where is there more of a threat, ISIS or American domestic terror? Clinton’s answer was so long I can not remember what it actually was. Because of the length of her response, I am going to assume it was a classic political non-answer. The best question of the night was asked by a Drake student, questioning Clinton on how she had benefitted from white privilege. Clinton told a little anecdote about babysitting kids of migrant workers, and realizing that we are all the same but we do not live the same lives. I liked the question a lot more than Clinton’s answer. The friend I was sitting next to, Haley Davis, answered it way better:

Brandi Dye

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