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A WOC’s Guide to the Democratic Primaries

A lot is riding on the upcoming Presidential election. As 2016 gets closer, it is critical to not only register to vote, but to educate yourself on the platforms of the candidates. Though this responsibility to our democracy falls on every citizen, being a part of a marginalized group makes it especially essential to vote. Women of color are hugely underrepresented in the political realm, and by not voting it is impossible for our rights to be defended and our voices to be heard. While it is impossible to encompass every view on every issue of every candidate, this will serve as an informative guide to two recognized democratic candidates: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Because I do not have the means within the limits of this blog post to offer a detailed analysis of the candidates’ platforms, I will be briefing on issues that resonate most with me as a woman of color.

BERNIE SANDERS has definitely created a reputation among liberal voters as the progressive leader in the race thus far. However, he has not made the serious issue of immigration a well pronounced part of his platform. His standpoint on the issue largely focuses on documenting immigrants who are living here under the radar, but he has not yet spoken out in favor of programs that will help integrate them into society, such as granting them driver’s licenses and student visas. While his other views on the matter are generally in favor of protecting immigrants against labor exploitation and reducing terrorism against them, it does come across as a priority issue.

HILLARY CLINTON’S views on immigration are more at the forefront of her campaign. She has views similar to Bernie, in that she defends President Obama’s executive actions on immigration from partisan attacks that would put DREAMers (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) at risk of deportation. Her views, however, are not as long term as her opponent. It was even brought up in the recent democratic debate how she firstly supported President Obama’s immigration policies but now says they are too harsh. Hillary has a history of changing her views to fit the approval of her audience. It is uncertain that she will follow through with her plans.

SENATOR SANDERS cites his long standing support of the LGBTQ+ community by referencing his history of voting against discriminatory bills. In addition, he is running on a platform the extensively supports bills that prohibits prejudice against LGBTQ+ people, in addition to supporting LGBTQ+ rights to healthcare. While he has specifically advocated for trans community members who have been unfairly targeted by the police, he has not made violence against transgender community, a marked part of his platform, who make up 50% of hate crime victims.

SENATOR CLINTON’S approach to LGBTQ+ issues is considerably less extensive than Senator Sanders. Combined with her inconsistent opinions regarding the rights deserved by the LGBTQ+ community (she ran in 2008 as an opponent of gay marriage), her plans to advocate for them are vague. While Senator Sanders has a detailed plan on the specifics of what he plans to change, the extent of Senator Clinton’s stance is to “fight for equality”. Her website makes no mention of defending LGBTQ+ rights to health insurance, advancing policies to ensure students can attend school without the fear of being bullied, or vetoing legislation that aims to “protect religious liberty” thats costs others their fundamental rights.

SENATOR SANDERS seems committed to addressing the violence that people of color experience on a variety of levels. His platform not only comprehensively illustrates the physical, legal, political, and economic violence and injustice faced by people of color, but has plans with specific details on how he plans to ameliorate these issues. He also appears to be receptive to listening to oppressed voices as opposed to speaking over them. When confronted at a campaign event in Seattle by BLM protesters, he deferred to their speeches and let them articulate their struggle despite the interruption. After this event, he met with Black Lives Matters to discuss their concerns and how he could improve his platform to meet their needs. Senator Sanders has also has the chance to meet with the mother of the late Sandra Bland, and instead of using the meeting to promote his campaign, he instead showed his solidarity silently.

SENATOR CLINTON’S position on racial justice seems to have come to fruition recently, at a campaign event in Atlanta where she was addressing groups of university students. Though her website makes no mention of steps she plans to take to ameliorate the dismissive attitude America has toward black lives, after being prompted (in the same way as Bernie) by protesters Hillary eventually surrendered a few words regarding racial injustice. She stated in her speech that she advocates for reforms in racial profiling, privatization of the prison system. However, she has little to say about police brutality other than, "…ultimately this has to be between the community. They have to respect the police, and the police have to respect the community.” Though she has met with other activist groups such as Campaign Zero as well as the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, her statement is implicit with white apologetics.

BERNIE presents a clear understanding of the economic issues in the United States, as well as how people of color are disproportionately affected by wealth inequality. Communities of color face systems that perpetuate their economic deprivation, leaving them in a cycle of poverty. Senator Sanders proposes to invest over 5 billion dollars in employment programs for youth of color who face unfairly high employment rates. His campaign also addresses wage inequality for women of color by contending for federal legislation to establish pay equity. Senator Sanders is also a strong proponent of large corporations paying their fair share in taxes, increasing the minimum wage, supporting unions, and breaking up financial institutions.

SENATOR CLINTON advocates for reform on Wall Street, recognizing how the irresponsibility of the financial sector brings about economic destruction. She is running on a campaign that vows to imposes taxes and risk fees on large financial institutions and holding corporations and individuals accountable when they break the law. However, the top donors to her campaign tell a different story. Large sums of money donated from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase demonstrate the hand that big business has a hand in her policies. She however, in a proponent of raising the minimum wage, and reforming tax code so that the wealthiest pay their fair share.

SENATOR SANDERS has been pigeonholed in the race so far as a socialist. However, what is often overlooked is his socialist belief that every child in America should have the capacity to receive a college education. As such, he proposes a plan that makes public colleges and universities tuition free. Doing so would both encourage more people to obtain a secondary education while remaining debt free. He also advocates to dismantle the current system in which the government profits off of student loans, in addition to lowering interest rates and making them refinanceable. Furthermore, he plans on sponsoring this program by imposing taxes on Wall Street speculators.

SENATOR CLINTON has a similar approach to her opponent, in that she likewise believes education should be attainable for everybody. Her plan asserts a model in which the barriers to receiving a degree are eliminated. Hillary aims to ensure that students can attend public universities without taking out tuition loans. Her plan provides grants to states to distribute to students, in addition to making community college free and dramatically cutting interest rates on loans. Her new college compact also expands opportunities for students rebooting their careers. Through lucrative online programs specializations, certifications, and training programs these students will drastically improve and improving their potential for employability. Senator Clinton’s endeavors to be financed by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.

SENATOR SANDERS has recognized gender inequality in has platform and has a number of intentions to alleviate the struggle that women experience. He states that he will fight for pay equity, expansion and protection of reproductive rights, and paid family leave. However, his website makes no mention of plans addressing the violence against women. Physical and sexual assault of women plagues the United States and not proposing any concrete plans to combat this issue leaves a gaping hole in this candidate’s campaign.

SENATOR CLINTON has dedicated a considerable part of her platform to ensuring oppression experienced by women is eradicated. She aims to close the pay gap, protect our health rights, and ensure that women are supported with paid family leave. In addition, she has committed to eliminating violence against women. An estimate of one in five women are sexually assaulted in college, and Hillary seeks to mitigate this problem by providing comprehensive support to survivors of assault, increasing preventative measures against violence, and making sure the process to address assault is just. Senator Clinton has had a long history of defending and protecting women throughout her political career, and her platform is indicative of inevitable progress in this area should she become the first female president.

(Other sources: The Daily Dot; Inside Gov)


Pola Dobrzynski is a sophomore Political Communications major and Marketing minor at Emerson College. Starting her work with Flawless Brown in Fall 2015, she is a contributor to Flawless Blog, Zine, and Pictures. She currently interns at Mediation Works Incorporated, and her interests include earth tones, sushi and Drake.

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