By Wes Kerrick–
About 50 Students and faculty gathered in the Cultural Center at noon last Wednesday to voice their views on what the election meant for the under-represented. The luncheon was moderated by Diana Whitlock, Assistant to the Vice Provost for Diversity.
“This election shows that America has been redefined,” someone said, so politicians must court minorities’ votes. “It’s no longer any one particular class or race.”
The election was great for minorities, participants said. They hailed the election of more women to the Senate, which they said will further the cause of women’s reproductive rights. In Maine and Maryland, voters okayed gay marriage. Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay woman elected to the U.S. Senate, and Mary Gonzalez of Texas became the first openly pansexual elected official in the U.S. “Last night was a really, really big milestone,” said Dr. Kaila Story, a professor of women’s and gender studies. “All the things that happened last night are to me like steps forward.”
Much discussion centered on the ways participants said racism affected the election. One participant said masked racism in Congress has kept Obama from passing legislation. Another said electing a black president has not solved the real issues blacks face.
Obama won in Louisville and Lexington, but Romney won in Kentucky. Story said Kentuckians living in rural areas are generally poor. “Romney and Ryan supporters, Kentuckians, especially white ones, are broke as a joke, and if they’re Republican, they are only going Republican because of the idea of traditional American, which is racism, black people in their place, women in the kitchen, gays dead.”
“It would have been pure hell under Romney,” one attendee said, and others agreed. If any Romney supporters were present, they never spoke.
PhD student Joe Goodman, coordinator of the African American Male Initiative, said afterward that Barack Obama’s reelection will inspire students who feel disadvantaged by racial barriers. “Barack does have some ethnic qualities that can be specifically identified with by certain ethnic groups,” he said.
Sophomore Chad Caldwell said he did not vote. “Our presidents are selected, not elected,” he said. “If nobody votes, there’s still gonna be a president.”
“That’s not true!” Story said. This began a discussion about the Electoral College, which Whitlock and others said they did not understand. Story said the system was enacted to diminish the power of blacks in the South.
After Whitlock concluded the discussion around 1 p.m., participants expressed to one another their appreciation for their divergent points of view.
At another luncheon Thursday, panelists will explain whether or not they believe race was a significant factor in the election. Coordinator Clest Lanier believes it was. “I know it when I see it,” she said. Lanier said alternative views will also be respected; the point is to facilitate discussion about race. “One of the things that’s happened in this community is that we don’t discuss things,” she said. The event will take place at 11:45 a.m. at the Cressman Center for Visual Arts on Main Street.
Photos: Tricia Stern/Louisville Cardinal