K, my final thoughts on the YouTube debate: two steps forward, one back

By Malena Amusa Jul 25, 2007

I finally had a chance to read transcripts of Monday’s Presidential Debate in South Carolina that fielded questions from YouTubers. And like I suspected, the designated "race" segment of the debate lacked all sophistication and advanced thought-processing. First, look at how debate host, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, began his "questions on race," according to CNN transcripts:

Almost 50 percent of South Carolina’s Democrats are African- Americans. It’s among the highest percentage of the nation. So we’re giving a lot of questions from YouTube viewers on race tonight.

Well isn’t that nice. Essentially, Cooper is saying the only reason he’s asking about race is because CNN doesn’t want Rev. Al Sharpton running down here starting it up with all these Black folks. In addition, Cooper wrongly conflates race with Blackness and diminishes the vast scope of things by not extending it to immigration, education, and Bush’s foreign policy, just to name a few. Saying race is just a Black polemic tells non-Black viewers to stop tuning in, which is ironic in light of the subsequent Katrina question. "Do you believe the response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina would have been different if the storm hit an affluent, predominantly white city?"–a YouTuber asked. In return, the candidates bemoaned the botched rescue efforts in New Orleans but never explicitly referred to Black people in their responses. And Cooper, not knowing how to handle this, quickly changed the question before others could answer saying: "Governor Richardson, the Democrats talk a lot about the failure of the president with Hurricane Katrina. The governor of that state was a Democrat; the mayor of that city is a Democrat as well." Before this, a YouTuber asked the candidates about reparations for the enslavement of Blacks. While I’m glad the question was raised and that all seemed on board to repair inequality, the language of investment and race trumped the language of justice–except in the case of Sen. Kucinich who said: "The Bible says we shall be and must be repairers of the breach. And a breach has occurred." The idea isn’t to merely commit to more funding of programs, but to commit to the idea that justice has yet to be delivered. Overall, the closest we got to a racial analysis came from, who else, Sen. Obama . When asked what he’ll say to critics of his Blackness, Obama said:

You know, when I’m catching a cab in Manhattan — in the past, I think I’ve given my credentials… Unfortunately, we’ve had a White House that hasn’t invested in the kinds of steps that have to be done to overcome the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow in this country. And as president of the United States, my commitment on issues like education, my commitment on issues like health care is to close the disparities and the gaps, because that’s what’s really going to solve the race problem in this country.

How this will happen without addressing race head on, something our Supreme Court says is wrong, nobody knows. Especially Sen. Clinton, who I think has the racial IQ of Ward Connerly. During the "race" part of the debate, Clinton created a jumbled soup of progressively incorrect terms around race. She said: "And I trust the American people to make a decision that is not about me or my gender, or about Barack or his race or about Bill and his ethnicity, but about what is best for you and your family." So let’s get this right. Barack is raced because he’s Black. While Bill Richardson is ethnic because he’s half Latino. Oh and Mrs. Clinton is just a woman, forget her being white. Because if she wins, it’s because America is ready for a woman president, regardless of her race, right? I think I’ve had it with this bunch. Expecting them to turn into keen racial analytics is like waiting for reparations… Find more debate details at Opportunity Agenda blog.