Marginalized groups sound off on upcoming debate, election at panel

Bailey Winston | Contributing Reporter

Panelists chosen from seven student organizations that represent different racial and cultural minorities on campus discussed issues surrounding the election Wednesday night as part of a panel titled “Perspectives on the Presidential Debate: Bridging Understanding.”

The organizers of the event saw the need to inform the larger student body what issues, on the federal, state and local levels alike, were of utmost importance to minority groups.

In recognizing the need for this panel, co-president of Ashoka, senior Saniya Suri, described how inequalities faced by minority groups often go overlooked in the political world.

“In terms of this election, we’ve been starting to see more nuanced references to social inequities and racial injustices in our country, but they aren’t overt nor discussed explicitly as a systemic issue,” Suri said.

While this is the case, according to executive director of Missouri’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Faizan Syed, the climate is not sustainable.

“America is a country that’s going through tremendous change, and fundamentally that change has to do with the makeup of this country. Within this nation within your lifetimes, you’re going to see minorities become more and more a majority within this nation,” Syed said.

With a growing presence of minorities and immigrants, panelist Sheela Lal, research director at Progress Missouri, pointed out that it is becoming more important for Americans to treat them as they deserve to be.

“Immigrants, with the matter of the way they got here, are equally, if not more American than native-borns themselves. They are here, they are trying to figure out a way to contribute and be a part of this society, and to demonize them is incredibly demeaning,” Lal said.

Senior and president of the Muslim Student Association Mohamed Gabir noted that this equal treatment begins and ends with the government listening to minority voices more attentively.

“As a Muslim personally, I think that a lot of these discussions are taking place without us in it…On the day of the debate we’ll have a ‘Meet-a-Muslim’ booth where we’ll set the tone of the discussion on how we’re talked about in this country and not the other way around,” Gabir said.

Julie Moreau, a postdoctoral fellow in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department, said that other minorities outside of those most commonly represented are facing oppression, both direct and indirect, in the United States.

“Folks who identify as trans still face significantly greater obstacles than other folks to accessing health care. This could be for economic reasons because trans folks tend to be in situations of very precarious employment and it’s estimated that between 60 and 65 percent of trans-identified people fall below the poverty line,” Moreau said.

While all the panelists agreed that an increase in discussion on issues regarding equal rights for minorities is necessary, this must be accompanied by an increase in legislative action, as senior Alvin Zhang, president of the Asian Pacific Islander American Initiative, pointed out.

“A lot of the issues the candidates actually talk about don’t have anything to do directly with our communities but are actually pretty antagonistic from Donald Trump, and even Hillary Clinton in responding to that has really left out actually what our communities need and is instead just trying to win votes,” Zhang said.

As a whole, the panelists agreed on several occasions that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for their cause, an issue Syed was able to address based on first hand experience.“I went to a Trump rally that happened here a few months ago. I was going there and passing out donuts to the people there, and when the people got upset, what they would do is they would yell two statements: ‘USA, USA, USA’ and ‘Build the Wall, Build the Wall, Build the Wall,’” Syed recalled.

Going along with this idea of the white majority in the United States ignoring issues among minorities, panelist and sophomore Clayton Covington discussed his personal experiences with racism.

“One of the things that is so disheartening to me is that I’ve had my neighbors call the police on me multiple times walking to my own house because they forgot that I lived there…Because of my blackness, I am automatically associated with criminality,” Covington said.

Towards the end of the panel, Ivan Eusebio Aguirre Darancou from the Hispanic Literature and Cultures Ph.D. program at Washington University, noted his beliefs on why the fight for equality should be a united one among different minority groups.

“Not all minorities are the same, but we are all minorities because of the same reason,” Aguirre Darancou said.

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