[Editor's Note: The following is written by Anson C. Asaka and is originally posted at his site New Possibilities; and, it is also cross-posted at Jack & Jill Politics where he's a frequent contributor. A onetime student activist at Howard University, Anson remains committed to the struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Follow him on Twitter @NewPossBlog, and do feel free to share your thoughts and opinions.]
So far, I have watched all three of the 2012 Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. Each debate lasted approximately 90 minutes. All three moderators were white. The final debate is on Monday. Again, the moderator will be white. The last debate will focus on foreign policy. During these debates, the candidates have discussed important issues such as the economy, taxes, education, women’s rights, health care reform and terrorism. However, none of the debates discussed race or affirmative action.
Race is still a major issue in America. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether the University of Texas’ affirmative action policy is constitutional. If the Supreme Court strikes down UT’s affirmative action policy, the doors to higher education will be closed to many African American young people. Universities and colleges will become more and more segregated. However, that issue was not important enough for the debate moderators.
Moreover, the moderators failed to raise the problem of racial profiling. New York city’s racist stop-and-frisk policy has been a major issue in the civil rights community. In New York and many cities around the country, young, innocent black men and women are constantly stopped, harassed and humiliated by police just because of the color of their skin.
Another example of racial profiling is the tragic Trayvon Martin case. This year, self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman hunted and shot down Trayvon Martin just because he was black. After great struggle and massive protests, Zimmerman was finally charged with murder.
In addition to racial profiling, mass incarceration was not raised during any of the debates. As explained in Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, the so-called War on Drugs has led to the mass incarceration of black people. Due to the mass incarceration problem, a disproportionate percentage of African Americans have been reduced to second class citizens even after they leave prison. In most states, they lose the right to vote and other precious rights.
In this mythological post-racial era, none of those issues matter. Unfortunately, the debates are fixated on issues that mainly impact white, moderate, middle class, undecided voters. As far as the presidential debates are concerned, black people are invisible and our concerns are irrelevant.
These debates have taught me one thing. In the eyes of the debate organizers and most of the viewers, the plight of Big Bird is far more important than the plight of my people. “Binders full of women” are more important than prisons full of black people.