September 26, 2016. The air crackles with electricity. The denizens of Boston retreat into their homes, drawing their curtains and triple-checking the locks on their doors. Only one American has the guts to brave the crossfire, and he sits between two titans as they hurl barbs that aim to kill.
It’s election debate night in America, baby, and no one’s making it out of here alive.
Alright, that’s melodramatic, but if you watched Monday night’s debate, you can appreciate the sentiment (and for the record, after the spectacle, Lester Holt has usurped the role of my personal hero).
It would be an easy post to sit here and pick apart every nonsensical tangential thought spewed from the thin lips of a certain presidential hopeful, or shower Secretary Clinton in misguided praise for her adept snarky remarks cast in Donald Trump’s direction; but these are surface-level observations that – let’s be real – will pepper our social newsfeeds for the next few months.What I want to touch on is the question raised early on in the debate about the topic of race relations in America.
Unless you’ve been living in a bubble (whether that bubble be crafted from plastic or your own stubborn ignorance), you have some understanding of the spike in (publicized) shootings of Black Americans by police officers. Police brutality is certainly not some new wave sweeping the nation, nor is subsequent protest about the civil rights of continually-marginalized Americans. However, given that many Americans are more outraged by the peaceful protest of a public figure than they are of the motivation behind it, we must demand, from both ourselves and our politicians, that we remove our “Racism is Dead. Obama 2008″ thinking caps and face the harsh light of reality.
So imagine how disappointing it was to watch our two presidential candidates flounder through the question of what they would do to “heal the divide” between Americans.
At the risk of stating the obvious, I would like to preface this with the fact that I am not a Donald Trump supporter. With my complexion and last name, it would simply be counterproductive to my own rocky feelings of security in my American identity. That being said, my endorsement of Hillary Clinton has been less than enthusiastic. So needless to say, I ventured into this debate with little to no expectations (to quote Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle: “I expect nothing, and I’m still let down”).
The question: How do we heal the divide between Americans in light of building racial tensions, particularly on the heels of a string of police brutality cases? Mr. Trump seemed confused by the question, and proceeded to give a shining endoresement to Dick Wolf’s masterpiece Law & Order (potentially the only thing that Mr. Trump and I can agree on). Hillary Clinton, however, was ready with a far more coherent (but no less disappointing response). Secretary Clinton’s responses can be narrowed down to a few main ideas: one, restoring the trust between communities and police; two, ensuring that the police (who have been shooting people with no guns) are not out-gunned on the streets; and three, “we all have implicit bias.”
Now, I’m not going to get into how I think this idea of “we’re all problematic” is consistently used to derail conversations about the shitty things that people say and do (because I am running high on my word count), but I think that the best thing that this response does is show the reluctance of mainstream politicians to speak out on a direly important issue. Clinton, despite answering with a bit more relevance than her opponent (which is not saying much), did not acutally say anything about the question at hand. The question was not about how she would stop gun violence in this country; it dealt specifically with cases revolving around unarmed victims murdered by police using an excessive amount of force. And yet when Clinton offered her non-answer, the sea of college students around me responded with snap-lause and other displays of college liberal approval.
While it is true that politicians must toe the very thin line between making definitive statements and alienating their more moderate constituents, the issue remains that we are willing to accept watered down support on real problems, especially when we find ourselves so far removed from them. It’s easy to sit in your common room at your private university, and chuckle at the orange disaster waxing incomprehensible on your TV screen. But if you take a minute to think about it, the heavyweight in your corner hasn’t said a whole lot either.
Only three more debates to go.
Featured photo credit: Donald “Because I don’t want to, Greta” Trump and Hillary Clinton by Krassotkin via Wikimedia Commons (license)