Posted by Barton Lorimor
Marla Baker is a junior double majoring in radio-television and speech communication. She is the mother of two paying for her children’s education at a private school as well as her own through student loans.
Baker is also an African American woman that plans to vote for Democrat Barack Obama in the Nov. 4 election.
“I got to fight my way through those Washington (D.C.) fat cats,” she said to a crowd of roughly 100 in the Lesar Law Building Thursday night.
Baker was one of three student speakers that delivered speeches about whether or not a candidate’s skin color play a role in this year’s presidential election. All of the speakers, which included Baker, Cassie McKay, a junior studying public relations, and Katie Thomas, a senior studying political science, said skin color has already played a role and will be a factor voters take with them to the polls.
Thomas, a member of the university debate team, delivered a fiery address to the crowd in which she compared people being color blind to a Walt Disney movie where no one’s skin color is an issue.
Though the election highlighted the racial freedoms in America, Thomas said it is “unconscionable” that Republican John McCain would suggest Obama cannot play the race card.
“People saying he doesn’t have enough experience are in a colorblind world,” she said of Obama having to plow through social roadblocks in order for him to become his party’s nominee for the Oval Office.
Associate Law Professor Sheila Simon, daughter of the late former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, said she has met people voting against Obama simply because of his racial background while campaigning on the Illinois Senator’s behalf in southeastern Missouri.
“We can’t get to a point where we’re color blind, but we can make wiser associations,” she said.
Simon said she saw similar traits in potential voters while campaigning for his father’s Senate races in the 1980s.
Paul Flowers, approached the lectern when the floor was opened up to members of the audience to make impromptu speeches. Flowers said that as an African American he has seen racism while walking on the campus sidewalks, but nevertheless has made it a priority to say, ‘Hello,’ to people that would not normally acknowledge him.
Before the evening concluded, Dylan Hertel, a student at John A. Logan College, said he was upset Obama was stealing the spotlight from another African American running for president.
“My problem is that nobody said anything about Cynthia McKinney,” he said referring to the Green Party’s African American presidential candidate.
An impromptu speaker who did not identify himself to the audience said even though race will play a part in the election, that is not the only reason voters should circle Obama or McKinney’s name on the ballot.
“Race plays a part of everyday life, so you can’t tell me it doesn’t play a factor in this election,” he said. “Make sure it’s an educated vote, and not just one for a ‘brotha’ because he’s running for the White House.”