On Thursday, April 14, students and faculty joined together to participate in a dialogue on how race has been playing a role in the 2016 United States presidential election and how it has played a role in politics and elections in the past. Sponsored by the Graduate Students of Color Association, the panelists included: Yaseen Eldik, a Harvard Law student, Michael Crupi, MCAS '16, Professor Tiziana Dearing of Boston College's School of Social Work, and Peter Laboy, MCAS '17.
Sathyapyra Mandjiny, a graduate student in the Boston College School of Social Work, moderated the debate by raising questions that ranged from specifics about the candidates in the 2016 U.S. election to broader questions aiming to open up discussion to the political and social theories of the panelists. The panelists sought to analyze the role that race is playing in the 2016 elections, explore what is at stake for communities of color, discuss how communities of color are shaping the issues being debated, and work through the implications for current and future policy makers.
When asked about the role of race in the campaigns of the candidates, referring to both Republicans and Democrats, Professor Dearing claimed that, “Every candidate is using race as a device to talk about issues that have to do with each candidate’s direction.” Dearing elaborated, “Race is often used as a device for political gain, and when it is used in such a way, it leads to inauthentic conversation”.
“Racism is a part of the American tradition,” Eldik responded. “Race in politics extends back to members the Senate and the House voting powers. Politics disproportionately disadvantages the poor black community.”
In regards to the president’s role in facilitating conversation on race once elected, Peter Laboy, BC Latin Caucus leader and BC Democrats representative stated, “His or her role is to set a moral guideline for the citizens.” Eldik responded by emphasizing that there is a “deep systematic discrimination based off of race and gender that is seemingly inescapable,” Eldik continued, “The president’s power is unparalleled in its capacity to create social change.” Eldik brought up the internment of the Japanese during WWII as an example of the president’s power in altering the moral principles of an entire nation.
Michael Crupi, President of the BC Republicans, disagreed by suggesting that “Whoever wins needs to walk gently, walk middle ground, and needs to not get too involved in all issues.” Crupi and Eldik debated back and forth on this issue both remaining adamant in their stances on the issue.
Acting as a peacemaker between the opposing opinions of Eldik and Crupi, Professor Dearing voiced her concerns with the upcoming election. “The concern I have about this election is partly driven by the primary election and in partly driven by the political context of our time.” Dearing claimed that there is “not a person running to represent all of the people, however, the best racial dialogue begins at the local level.” Eldik also voiced concern in his belief that there is a “mismatch between the rhetoric used by the candidates and the supporters they have attained.”
In closing, Eldik offered some encouraging words to the audience. “I have never attended a forum that has grappled with such difficult questions. You all are are all to be graciously thanked for participating in this type of conversation because this topic of race, religion, and the 2016 presidential election is unparalleled in its capacity to create tension, stress, frustration, and divisiveness”.