Essay: Back to the Issues in NYC

From Donald Moore of Youth Communication in New York City

As someone who’s always been interested in politics, I’m following the primaries closely. Since the caucuses in Iowa, I’ve been having online conversations with my friends about every twist and turn…and debating the issues in chat rooms.

For a while, though, many of my friends weren’t planning on voting. When I tried to convince them, their attitude was that the race in New York was already decided, so their vote didn’t matter. They felt like they had no say. It’s a defeatist attitude that I see changing now that the race is so close, especially on the Democratic side.

Since my friends are mostly African American, we’ve had a lot of conversations about whether America is ready for a black president. When Barack Obama lost in New Hampshire, we all thought it was because he was black, even if we didn’t have a basis for that theory.

For a while we were also arguing about whether he was African American. Barack Obama doesn’t fit my definition of the term because his ancestors weren’t African slaves. Plus, growing up in a white household in Hawaii is something I’m guessing not many African Americans relate to.

Last year, I was bitter about people saying they were voting for Obama just because he was black. It bothered me because it sends the message that black candidates can expect the black vote automatically, and that Obama didn’t have to earn the vote. It seemed just as bad as white people voting for someone just because they are white. It makes the elections seem superficial.

These days, I’m back to the issues and here are my big ones:

Most important to me is education. Most of my friends are in college and they have to pay a lot of money to go. I’m of the opinion that college should be free to those who want it. Surprisingly, a lot of my friends in college disagree with me. Unfortunately, candidates have more to say about early childhood education than higher education.

I’m also really interested in predatory lending. After doing a project in Government class about gentrification, I learned about how predatory lending disproportionately affects low income homeowners. It’s even more relevant now with the subprime lending crisis. Where I live in Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant – it’s become more gentrified. It’s a mixed bag, so to speak. On one hand, crime has decreased in my part of the neighborhood, which is made up of mostly homeowners. But in other areas close by, especially near public housing, crime has actually increased over the past couple of years, because the poor have been forced into less desirable parts of the city.

My friends are used to me talking about the issues. When I’m in the chat room with my friends online, we really get into it. We talk about Affirmative Action and argue about whether it’s necessary. We tell my Asian friend who opposes it to vote for Rudy Guiliani.

And when we think someone doesn’t have all the information for their argument, we say “Proof? Link?” and then we force them to find links to prove their argument. I think this helps us in the long run; instead of just holding onto an opinion blindly, we force each other to think about about the positions we take.

At home, on Sundays, it’s a tradition in my house to watch the African American political show “Like It Is” during breakfast and discuss the issues. My father is pretty progressive. My mother is more to the center. On economic issues, she’s liberal, but on social issues, I’d say she’s more conservative. She’s for the death penalty and for prayer in school.

Now that it seems conceivable that we could have a black president, my Mom is optimistic, but my Dad is doubtful.

Seeing a black person as president would be an achievement for my people. For my parents to see a black person at that level in their lifetime would be amazing. But when I’m voting in my first presidential primary, I’ll be thinking about the war in Iraq, education, gun control, the economy, and the other important issues… not race. Because that’s what I would hope every other voter does.

And after I’m done voting, I’ll go talk to my friends, and ask them who they voted for. And if we voted for different candidates, we’ll no doubt make fun of each other for our choices, and have a really long argument about it. To me, that’s better than not talking about it at all.

-Donald Moore, Youth Communication NYC

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One Response

  1. […] Flow posted one of Donald’s essays last week, and we’re happy to have him up on the air so soon. Many thanks to Youth […]

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