A Berkeley-based public policy advocacy group working for communities of color is urging the presidential candidates to “play the race card” and answer tough questions at tomorrow’s debate, even as a major documentary on race in U.S. politics is set to air at tomorrow as well.
“People of color are well on the way to becoming America’s new majority, but neither the major-party candidates nor the media have done much to address the real needs of our communities,” Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar said in a news release. “We hope debate moderator Candy Crowley and town hall participants will borrow some of our questions and press both candidates for real answers about poverty, the racial wealth gap and growing divisions in our country.”
A column by Aguilar titled “Obama, Romney: Please play the race card” appeared in select newspapers across the nation this past weekend. Now he and the institute want the candidates to answer questions like these:
- Racial Divisions: During this campaign, we have seen what many believe to be racially coded appeals and campaign advertising. Meanwhile, surveys have found that whites, blacks and Latinos have starkly different beliefs about the level of racial discrimination and racial inequality in our nation. As president, what will you do to heal these divisions?
- Unemployment: Over the past forty years, black and Latino unemployment rates have consistently been higher than that of whites. What long-term strategies do you propose to reduce the racial disparity in unemployment rates?
- Homeownership: While foreclosures are down since 2010, 1,887,777 foreclosure filings, auctions and bank repossessions occurred in 2011. The foreclosure crisis has hit communities of color hard. While blacks and Latinos represented 7.8 percent and 11.2 percent of people who received a home loan from 2007-2009, they represented 11.6 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively, of all foreclosures. What will you do to reduce foreclosures, both overall and specifically within communities of color?
Meanwhile, the Public Broadcasting System is teasing its “Race 2012” documentary, set to air at 8 p.m. Tuesday – right after the second presidential debate – and again at 9 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 19. Directed and produced by Phillip Rodriguez, it aims to document the changing face of America and how that face may affect the nation’s political future, according to a news release.
PBS today offered “a sneak peek of five surprising facts” from the documentary, presented here verbatim:
- 1.) As recently as 1980, 80 percent of the United States was white. The 2010 census showed that the country’s overall population is now slightly less than 64 percent white.
- 2.) In contrast to the 19th and 20th century move to change the names and cultural identities of U.S. immigrants to appear more “Americanized” or “white,” white Americans and African Americans increasingly are adopting Latino names and cultural touchstones to fit the diversifying communities in which they live. A growing number of African Americans in San Francisco’s Bay Area hold quinceañeras for their children, and have piñatas at their parties. And El Paso politician Robert O’Rourke, who is white and speaks fluent Spanish, goes by the traditional Latino nickname “Beto” and unseated a Latino incumbent in the Congressional primary.
- 3.) Conservatives tend to assume Asian-Americans vote conservatively because as a group they’re considered hard-working, industrious and entrepreneurial – characteristics stereotypically associated with white Americans. Yet the Asian-American community consistently votes 2 to 1 for liberal candidates.
- 4.) For the first time in 70 years, the majority of white parents believe their children will not be financially better off than themselves, while African Americans and Hispanics are now considerably more optimistic about the next generation.
- 5.) Although conservative policies are perceived as harder on immigration, in the past few years the U.S. has had a record deportation level. In each year of the Obama administration, deportations outnumbered any year of the Bush administration.
The film already is making waves. John Ziegler, a documentary filmmaker who was interviewed for “Race 2012,” issued a statement today saying it’s “fundamentally biased against both whites and conservatives, and also makes unsubstantiated charges of racism against the Romney campaign.”
Ziegler, a conservative former radio talk show host who created www.HowObamaGotElected.com and the documentary “Media Malpractice… How Obama Got Elected,” has written a scathing critique of “Race 2012” for the Media Research Center, a conservative organization dedicated to “exposing and combating liberal media bias.” In that piece, he calls it “nothing more than a PBS-sponsored liberal hatchet job on conservatives which doesn’t even pretend to be fair.”