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Government & Politics

Voices of Voters: People of Color Try to Separate Promises from Pandering

Black Lives Matter rally

One-in-three eligible American voters are people of color, and this presidential election has the most ethnically and racially diverse voter base in American history. But the campaigns have been using strong, racially charged language.

In this installment of the Statehouse News Bureau’s series featuring voices of voters, correspondent Andy Chow talked to voters to get their perspective on how campaign rhetoric has impacted them as people of color.

“Racism has taken a huge uptick in this country," maintains Puja Datta, a 29-year-old political activist from the Columbus area. Datta is also a first generation Indian American whose parents were immigrants to the U.S. from Calcutta.

“I had somebody walk past me and say, ‘You know, my people need jobs in this country, too,’ because I think I looked like I was going to a job interview. (It was) like, ‘Your people don’t need jobs; your people get out of this country;my people need jobs.’”

Datta, who created the progressive group Ohio Revolution, says that's why it’s important for people of color to play a role in the political world and voice their opinions.

What the numbers show
A Southern Poverty Law Center survey earlier this year found an increase in bullying and harassment in schools and labeled it “the Trump effect," linking it to the anti-immigration stance that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has expressed since the beginning of his campaign.

Support for Trump among minority voters is low. The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows in a two-way race, Democrat Hillary Clinton with 73 percent of support from people of color, while Trump is getting 21 percent of that vote.

Beyond the wall
Jose Mas, a criminal defense attorney in Columbus who counsels the Ohio Hispanic Coalition, says Trump disqualified himself on day one of his campaign when he called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers.

“It’s not an issue of, ‘Oh I'm going to build a wal.' That’s not the problem. The problem is that he identifies individuals, personally sometimes or in broad groups, as representing a threat to the nation.”

Mas, who is an immigrant from Cuba, would rather hear about moving the country forward in unity. For him, this would mean creating a single-payer healthcare program, extending more protections to workers, and reforming immigration policy.

In stark contrast to Mas is Gary DeLeon, of Columbus, who has been a Trump fan for decades. DeLeon, who is Mexican- and Spanish-American, is irritated by the notion that he should vote for someone other than Trump just because of his descent.

“I find that a wall is necessary. I believe they’ve allowed too many people in America that are stealing the American jobs from the American people. So if Mr. Trump can build a wall, more power to him.”

The Pew Research Center shows that Hispanic Americans make up 12 percent of the electorate, African Americans make up another 12 percent and Asian Americans account for  4 percent.

A call for more policy discussion
Latoya Peterson works to engage minorities and encourage them to participate and vote through the Columbus Urban League Young Professionals.

Peterson, who’s African American, says the issues that speak to people of color would connect with any middle class American. However, she says neither Trump nor Clinton have done a good job speaking to those issues.

“I don’t think they’ve appealed to minorities. I don’t think they’ve had real policy issues and plans to correct women not being paid equally, women not having a seat at the board table. So I think when they start getting really specific and they start looking at local politics and local neighborhoods they’ll start going in the right direction.”

And according to Peterson, it’s one thing to pander to minorities during election season, but it’s another to get to work on those issues after the votes are counted.