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U. Virginia Students Seek Political Answers

This story was written by Kate Hartmann, Cavalier Daily
Is America ready for a minority president?

A discussion sponsored by University of Virginia Democrats and Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. sorority posed that and other questions to a panel of representatives from various student groups on Wednesday night.

Moderator Eugene Resnick, University Democrats minorities and women's affairs coordinator, noted the importance of the upcoming presidential election, given that it is the first time in history several major presidential candidates are from groups typically under-represented in the political field.

"We are all here because we care about our country and the presidential election next year," Resnick said. "All the panelists on this stage believe that this will be the most important election of our generation."

One issue addressed was that the candidates must strike a balance between representing their communities and appealing to the mainstream.

Latino Student Union President Carolina Ferrerosa said Democratic contender Bill Richardson, for example, has not received as much support as might be expected from the Latino community because he has not addressed serious Latino issues.

On the other hand, Hoos For Hillary President Meg Barry said if a minority candidate "pulls the gender [or race] card, they will alienate the mainstream."

Barry also noted how the candidates have all had to position themselves to combat stereotypes. Because some see women as weak and black men as domineering, she said to succeed in today's political climate, "Hillary has to become more masculine, and Obama has to become more feminine."

University Democrats President Sophia Brumby raised the debate of how appearance is more of an issue for Clinton than for male candidates.

Even her laugh has been characterized as a "cackle," comparing Hillary to a witch, or a "giggle," evoking the characterization of a little girl, Brumby noted. Both words connote femininity, but in a negative way, she said.

"There is always going to be that double standard," said Brooke Howard, Black Student Alliance political action chair.

Obama also receives biased treatment, Resnick said, commenting on how the media has focused on such factors as Obama's middle name, Hussein, the fact that Obama worships at a "black" church, his cigarette smoking and a false report about him attending an Islamic school as a child.

Fifth-year education student Alicia Hines expressed frustration at the fact that each candidate is seen as the representative for his or her community.

"The community is not a monolith," she said, "There's not going to be one person that can speak for the whole community."

According to Tamara Dottin, a representative from Sigma Gamma Rho and BSA president, the purpose of the event was to raise awareness, promote discussion and instigate excitement about the presidential race among minority groups on Grounds.

"So is America ready for a minority president?" Resnick asked the crowd.

The inquiry drew responses from the crowd that were less than conclusive. Some audience members answered with a straight "no."

"If this is how we're seeing it, as a 'black president' or a 'woman president' then we're not ready." Dottin said.

Barry responded with a stab at the current president.

"Well, we're not ready for another George W. Bush," Barry said, adding that though America may not be ready for a minority leader, the minority candidates themselves have the ability to overcome such obstacles, as individual candidates can trump their minority status.

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