U. Massachusetts Black Student Union Debates On Upcoming Election

This story was written by LaToya Murphy, Massachusetts Daily Collegian


The Black Student Union (BSU) held its monthly Real Talk discussion in the New Africa House on Thursday at the University of Massachusetts. The topic: the upcoming presidential election.

The Real Talk discussions give students the chance to voice their opinions on the presented topics. Thursday's discussion in particular allowed students to debate on the candidates for presidency and the political issues being raised surrounding the historical election.

A slideshow of quotes that encouraged the attendees to guess their authors played in the background while the president of the BSU, Mohamed Vandi, opened by announcing that "This [is] an open forum discussion. Say what's on your mind. This is about you guys and what's on your mind. Just try to keep it real."

Vandi began the discussion by asking the group who they felt would help the country the most through its economic crisis.

An attendee, who referred to himself as Moonlight, said that "neither of them really knows what they will face when they get in office. Obama has a better campaign as of the last presidential debate because he pays attention to small details. I find myself being able to follow Obama easier than McCain."

UMass student Danny Soto also responded to the question.

"I don't like Obama and I don't like McCain. Period. They're both politicians. They say what they have to to get elected. I watch the debates and McCain wins because he sticks to conventional things that are known to work," said Soto.

This comment ignited disagreement between the attendees and immediately moved the topic away from the economic crisis and more toward Obama and McCain.

"McCain may say that Obama is naive but we need a change. I wouldn't say that McCain won because during the debates he didn't answer the questions directly. He circled around them. Maybe Obama's answers were way out there but at least he had an A, B and C plan for them," said Maria Payano, external chair of the ALANA Caucus.

The forum moved back toward the economic crisis now facing the country. They reflected on how this crisis is affected them as students.

"I don't think it has hit us yet that we're in a recession because we're in college but when you get out into the workforce it will hit you because when you're looking for a job, you won't be able to get it," said Kenisha Jackson, a member of the BSU.

Jackson then raised a question regarding universal health care in the United States. She was curious as to how the group felt about the possibility of America implementing the system.

"It would get watered down and I don't think anyone would want the health care anyways. I don't feel that, with our economic situation, it would work as well here as in other countries," responded Jimmy Destin, the vice president of the BSU.

Fadumo Tahlil, a member of the BSU, disagreed. She said that "it is very possible. We are the richest country in the world. We are financing this war. If we put that money towards something else, we could do it."

Most attendees seemed to agree with Tahlil's statement.

"This country can fund it. It's very possible. The way we structure health care now is a big business. It's what keeps us competitive. They could do it, but I don't think that it would be a good idea," said Candace Johnson, another BSU member.

Vandi wanted to keep the group focused on the candidates in the election so he raised the question, "Who has the best policy on Iraq?"

This lead to a discussion about what many believed were the real reasons behind the U.S. involvement in Iraq, the war on terrorism and the problem ith leadership ability in the United States.

"It was a stupid war to start in the first place," said UMass student Kenneth Sentamu. "We didn't accomplish anything that we set out to do. In pulling out, we risk damaging our image abroad and could lead to civil war."

"The problem is that a lot of people don't know what is going on. And we're not doing our research," Amaka Mbawuike, a BSU member, said, "People need to go get the facts and then we need to work together to find a way to pull out effectively."

Regarding the issue of the war on terror, many people felt that the United States was largely responsible.

Selasi Binah said that she felt "it [was] a pride issue."

"Everyone wants to intertwine the war in Iraq issue and terrorist issue," she said. "I feel like if we can't fix what's going on in our own country then why go into other countries? I think that's why people liked Clinton-the United States was his main priority."

In the time that was left in the segment, the forum decided to discuss the candidates for vice presidency. The discussion seemed to focus largely on what the group thought to be Sarah Palin's inadequateness.

On Palin, Octavia Farquharson, a UMass student, said that "as a woman [she was] offended that McCain chose Palin for vice president."

"This is history," she said. "To have that kind of woman portrayed in the White House is embarrassing to me."

To wrap things up, Vandi asked one last question. He wanted to know what the attendees, as college students, should do.

"Generally Americans, in the past, have been ignorant," Sentamu answered, "We have to learn what's going on in the world and how the policies we make here affect other countries. The things we do have implications. Become more educated."

"We need to go back to the 50s, 60s and 70s when we weren't afraid to skip class and stand outside with picket signs," Johnson answered.

Before leaving, the group was polled on who they believed would ultimately win the election. Amongst the attendees, the results were overwhelmingly for Obama.
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