Dem Presidential Hopefuls Talked White Privilege, Deportation, Diversity at Iowa Forum

By Shani Saxon-Parrish Jan 12, 2016

Plenty of race questions were on the table when Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley sat down for the Iowa Black and Brown Forum last night, January 11, at Drake University in Des Moines.

The moderators from news site Fusion, got right down to business when one asked O’Malley why more than 80 percent of his campaign staff is White. He responded with the (irrelevant) fact that he had a diverse staff back when he was mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland. 

Clinton was put in the hot seat when moderator Jorge Ramos asked her if she’d commit to stopping the deportations of Central American children fleeing drug gang violence in their home countries. “I can’t sit here and tell you I have a blanket rule,” the former Secretary of State responded. “Let me say this. I will give every person, but particularly children, due process to have their story told.”

Sanders clearly stood out as the crowd favorite. He had the audience on its feet with talk of “political revolution," “radical ideas” and government-funded college tuition for all. When asked if Black people are justified in their mistrust of police officers, Sanders responded, “Do I think the Black community has a right to be nervous and apprehensive about police? Absolutely.”

The candidates also addressed White privilege (Clinton said she knew she benefited from it: “I never really knew what was or wasn’t part of the privilege; I just knew I was a lucky person.”), sexuality and women’s rights.

The Iowa Black and Brown Presidential Debate was established in 1984 and is considered the oldest "minority-focused" debate in the country. The format was changed to a forum this year when national party officials limited the number of debates this election cycle.