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Presidential Debates Fail to Address Racism

For immediate release
October 14, 2004

2004 Racism Watch Criticizes
Commission on Presidential Debates,
Bush and Kerry for Near-Absence of
Racial Justice Issues from Four Debates

Ms. George Friday, National Co-coordinator for 2004 Racism Watch, today criticized last night's Presidential debate and the three preceding it, all sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, for the paucity of questions addressing issues of racial justice.

"It was as if people of color were barely visible to those who organized and participated in these debates, as if racism is an issue well on its way to being solved in this country, and we hardly need to talk about it," said Ms. Friday. "Out of 20 questions last night, only one, the one on affirmative action, dealt directly with this subject. The question on immigration focused mainly on the question of border security rather than why people feel forced to cross illegally into the U.S. in search of low-wage jobs, or the often terrible conditions of their lives. In the three previous debates, except for a question put to the VP candidates on aids and Africa, there were no questions on racial justice issues.

"On top of this," Ms. Friday continued, "neither Bush nor Kerry, with few exceptions, took it upon themselves to raise issues of racial justice in the context of their responses to other questions. One exception for Kerry last night was his acknowledgment that 50% of black males in NYC are unemployed and his reference to '40% of Hispanic children or black children in some cities dropping out of high school.' Yet, on a question about raising the minimum wage, Kerry made no reference to the fact that it is people of color who are disproportionately found in sub-minimum or minimum wage jobs. He talked about 'equal pay' but only for women.

"George Bush, on the other hand, indicated no appreciation at all for the very real racial disparities that are a stubborn fact of life in the USA. 70% of those in prison are African American or Latino. The average net wealth of an African American family is 1/10th that of a white family. Our criminal justice system is riddled with racial and class bias against people of color and the poor. Unemployment rates are more than twice as high for blacks, Latinos and Native Americans as compared to whites. Old voting machines are found disproportionately in election districts that are predominantly people of color. Suburban schools have disproportionately more resources compared to inner city schools. And the list can go on.

Ted Glick, 2004 Racism Watch's other National Coordinator, said, "The expected failure of our political system to address these issues was why a coalition of groups around the country came together last month to organize 'Vote for Racial Justice Week,' which is happening next week, October 18-24. Throughout the country, in over 100 localities, groups will be marching, holding forums and meetings and reaching out with literature which focuses on racial justice issues. Since the Commission on Presidential Debates, the dominant media and the Bush and Kerry campaigns have failed to raise them, we will do so at the grassroots in scores of localities. And no matter who is elected, we will continue to build a movement for racial, social and economic justice in this country."

-- 30 --

More information on "Vote for Racial Justice Week" can be found at

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