The wide range of DNC speakers could isolate some BIPOC voters in the 2020 Election.
BIPOC experiences were showcased and tokenized throughout the DNC to try and sway the opinion of BIPOC voters. While the DNC’s tactic of showcasing Americans from a plethora of backgrounds might have met an unspoken quota, it failed to find mention of how Biden’s presidency would protect these populations.
In her vice presidential candidate’s speech, Kamala Harris spoke passionately about her own identity and interest in the Biden campaign, garnering mixed reactions. Her acknowledgement of HBCUs, AKAs, and the Divine Nine landed well with many Black voters, but she struggled to capitalize on her Indian heritage beyond mention of her mother’s immigration to the United States.
The story itself is one of struggle and hard work — themes that usually hit home with immigrant populations — but her story lacked the emotional complexity and seriousness that was quickly identified from prior speakers of color. Her speech also comes at a time in which Donald Trump has aligned himself as an ally of India and Prime Minister Modi, which could undermine her success in appealing to certain Indian voters.
Though the speeches by notable politicians and celebrities were met with hopeful cheers from Democrats and Republicans, there was still a feeling of uncertainty concerning the future of vulnerable populations, particularly those lacking sufficient access to healthcare or stable employment during the pandemic, and those most discriminated against within the criminal justice system. Even within the DNC, Michelle Obama acknowledged the possibility that things could get worse and urged everyone to vote for Joe Biden, “like your lives depend on it.”
While the former first lady and many other DNC speakers meant well by addressing Trump’s failure to satisfy the American public, speakers fell short of mentioning any meaningful legislation specifically intended to reverse the damage created by the Trump Administration. This anti-Trump platform might be useful for electing Biden since only 38% of Americans approve his performance as president, but does little to reassure many at risk Americans that Biden will protect their interests if he is elected president.
There were moments when the DNC used its platform to advocate for tangential issues. Activist Ady Barkan delivered a powerful speech outlining the need to make healthcare a human right and accessible to all and former Ohio Republican Governor, John Kasich, asked Americans to “take off our partisan hats and put our nation first for ourselves.” While these speeches reflected a contemporary understanding of the issues concerning the upcoming election, no mention was made concerning the nuances that specifically affect the BIPOC community. And for BIPOC who were given primetime, some of their speeches came off as generalized and vague.
None of this is to completely discredit Biden or uphold the Trump administration. The matter of fact is that the Trump administration has done permanent damage toward Black and brown communities. After all, we are talking about a president who referred to white supremacists and confederate sympathizers as “very fine people,” but the bar should not be lowered when talking about systemic changes just because Trump failed so immensely in protecting BIPOC communities. If the DNC wishes to appeal to voters with mixed feelings, especially those concerning these populations, they need to expand their platform into contemporary issues such as healthcare coverage and unemployment rather than over relying on anti-Trump sentiment.
After all, we are talking about a president who referred to white supremacists and confederate sympathizers as “very fine people,” but the bar should not be lowered when talking about systemic changes just because Trump failed so immensely in protecting BIPOC communities.
As a moderate candidate who lacks the wide scale national appeal amongst progressives that a candidate like Bernie Sanders has achieved, Biden’s DNC speech was more or less a general overview of the concerns of all those who spoke before him. While many have criticized his speech for that aspect, there was one part of his speech that resonated with me — the story of his family.
As someone who has lost a wife and two children, Biden’s mention of despair, cruelty, and purpose brought me close to tears because it felt real. It reminded me of my own family and their stories of overcoming struggle and hardship, but most importantly it reminded me that even the most seasoned politicians can demonstrate some level of humanity.
For many individuals in the BIPOC community experiencing loss is nothing new, whether it is personal or symbolic, but we have been trained to suppress negative feelings and push through adversity. For a moment, Biden’s admission of the cruelty and unfairness of life felt like long awaited acknowledgement. He had unintentionally empathized with this community.
For a moment, Biden’s admission of the cruelty and unfairness of life felt like long awaited acknowledgement.
To my BIPOC friends, waiting is also nothing new. We have been told that patience is a virtue and that change takes time to materialize, but as we bear witness to the damage within our communities — the buildup of years of physical and spiritual oppression — change is needed now more than ever. I am worried that my friends will not see the change they are looking for this coming election because a win for the Democratic party does not guarantee protection for BIPOC. Given Kamala and Joe’s sentiments and prior political background, we must hold them accountable for their actions and maintain an interest in protecting society’s most affected.
As mentioned in the DNC, communities have spoken on behalf of BIPOC issues preceding Trump’s presidency. While the appearance of many minorities had little to no effect towards advancing conversations of race and ethnicity, the DNC did at least visually represent those communities. But to ensure a comfortable constituency among these voters, the Biden campaign will need to be more proactive and outline future legislation for issues most pertinent to these communities.
Last updated 9/1/20
Read more politics: