Brown and Black Forum Focus on Critical Minority Issues
DES MOINES, Iowa – On Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Day, Vice News held the Black and Brown Forum in downtown Des Moines. This event interviewed every major Democratic candidate running for the presidential nomination. This is an important and interesting event because the candidates are asked questions about racial issues that are rarely discussed on the debate stage or the campaign trail.
The event was held in a ballroom in the Iowa Event Center. Just outside the ballroom was a long line of people waiting to get checked in and others who didn’t have a ticket but were hoping to get in. I overheard an African-American woman as she was arguing with someone who worked for Vice News who said that she flew here for this event and had been waiting for a ticket since 8:30 that morning. I felt bad as I walked in at 11:45 after a five-minute drive as I already somehow acquired a ticket a few days prior. The event space had lots of TV cameras and Vice News staff preparing to stream on Facebook live for thousands of people.
After hearing from a few speakers who talked about the history of the Black and Brown Forum which has been going on for almost fifty years, the camera went live as the moderators took the stage and introduced the event. Each candidate answered questions from the moderators for about fifteen minutes which was then followed by about ten minutes of questions from the audience. The interview ended with a short answer section where the candidates had one minute to answer as many questions as they could. Those questions varied from how many kinds of milk they could list to what college Martin Luther King Jr. attended.
The moderators were critical of the candidates, asking about questionable decisions in the candidate’s past and the candidates’ current policies as it pertains to the black and brown community. Although Vice News tried to keep the energy in the room positive and fun, many people in the audience took the candidates’ responses very seriously. Sometimes this created some uncomfortable moments for the audience but especially the candidates. For example, Andrew Yang was asked why white supremacists groups have come out in support of him and he could not provide a sufficient answer which created some thick and awkward tension in the room.
This forum was especially important for former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Elizabeth Warren as both of them are struggling to gain support from minority groups, specifically the African American and Latino vote. This gave them both a chance to try to prove why they would be beneficial to the black and brown community. While Mayor Buttigieg was grilled about his decisions as mayor in South Bend, Indiana, such as policing and housing, as well as the moderators pointing out how poorly he is doing in black and brown polling, Senator Warren was let off easy. The questions asked to her basically gave her the opportunity to give the same stump speech as she always does. However, I was impressed that she could name seven different kinds of milk.