Black and Brown Forum Roast Session
On MLK Day, the Brown and Black Forum was held in Des Moines Veterans Convention Center. It was an incredible event dedicated to centering today’s hot political issues on the perspectives and lives of people of color. The event was put on by Vice News, which had some of the most incredible moderators I’ve ever seen at a presidential forum. These moderators were all people of color and pushed the candidates to actually answer the questions that were asked of them, which was a nice change of pace rather than the moderators constantly asking, ‘how are you going to pay for that’ or ‘tell us about your plans for climate change.’
The best part of the work of the moderators was that they were willing to grill and roast the heck out of some of the candidates. The first candidate Michael Bennet got the brunt end of the stick when they called him out on voting yes for the Keystone Access Pipeline which put thousands of indigenous people’s lives and living environment at risk, and when he gave a really bad answer, they continued to press him until he was unable to answer the question. They also called him a bland white guy and Bennet even agreed with him.
They then continued with the candidates and really brought the claws out for Pete Buttigieg. They specifically grilled him on his time as mayor in Indiana when the number of African-American police officers dropped in his district and his office never did anything to address the issue. This was an interesting question because I had never heard this issue being brought up before in Pete’s interviews and he was unable to produce a good answer. Even so, the reporter Antonia was incredible and continued to roast him on the issue until moving on to audience participation.
They later grilled John Delaney on the amount of money he’s spent on his own campaign and calling out the fact that he could have almost fixed the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, with the money he has put into his very unsuccessful campaign. Andrew Yang also joined in the roast fest when the reporter asked him about the former white supremacists that are now supporting his campaign and what that means for his platform. Joe Biden was also not protected from the questioning when they questioned his ability to actually know what it is like to live as an African American and calling him out on the fact that just because he lived with black people doesn’t mean he understands the struggles they go through.
However, the questioning of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar was disappointing. They were asked good questions, but the interviewers didn’t push them at the same levels that they grilled the other candidates. It felt like those three got off easy and were able to deliver their well-rehearsed speeches and not actually answer any questions specifically relating to the positions of people of color. I would have liked to see them ask Warren about the years she claimed Native American heritage when she may be only .09 to 1.5 percent Native American. Or asked Bernie about how his economic policies will directly affect disproportionate communities of color. Or even asked Amy Klobuchar a question that she wouldn’t have argued about but these candidates, I felt like, got off relatively easy.
This forum was the perfect place to see the candidates react to questions they hadn’t rehearsed and see them interact in environments that they’re not ordinarily in. It was nice to finally see some pushback on their answers instead of the normal walk-around answers they give in every debate.