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Appearance takes back seat to candidates’ platforms

With the Ohio primary right around the corner, many voters have begun finalizing their presidential choices. Although everyone has different ideals they look for in a candidate, most decisions made are based on political affiliation, platform issues and personal message.

But for black women on campus, a unique and most unexpected dilemma presents itself: Should they vote for their race or their gender? No other voting bloc in the country faces this choice.

‘This election is one that is race- and gender-orientated, and that’s why it is so important to inform students about the issues each candidate stands for,’ said Alicia Gilbert, vice president of the Black Student Union. ‘We kind of have to wrap a scarf around voters’ eyes so they don’t vote for the candidate that looks just like them.’

With Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tied in a deadlock for the Democratic nomination, analysts say black women have never been more engaged in a political campaign or held such power in determining the Democratic nominee.

And while support for Clinton among women has been growing, the results of Super Tuesday show that Obama is gaining among blacks.

Similarly, according to a survey conducted on campus among 100 black women, 67 plan on voting for Obama while only 33 are voting for Clinton.

However, a large majority of those polled chose their candidate based on the message and the issues rather than appearance.

‘I can see why some people would vote based on appearance, but we shouldn’t be thinking he’s black or she’s a woman,’ Tianna Grayer, president of the historically black sorority Zeta Phi Beta, said.

‘It needs to be focused on the issues because when it comes down to it, we might have the first woman or the first black man in the president’s seat, but what are they going to do for the country? That’s what matters, that’s what’s important.’

Pa’Trice Owens, the BSU adviser, said she believes people who vote based on appearance may fall into two certain categories.

‘People who are not educated about candidates’ political issues vote for the one who looks like them,’ she said.

‘Also, people who oppose the candidates’ political agenda in the first place tend to put some kind of black cloud out there and say that we’re only voting based on the gender and the color of one’s skin, which is nonsense.’

In reality, Owens said her support of Obama comes directly from his message, which calls for dramatic change.

Although he is making promises much like other candidates, Obama makes it a priority to tell the public what it is they should be doing to make the U.S. better, she said.

For Grayer, Obama’s stance on the economy is what makes him the right candidate for her.

‘I always thought I’d find a job right out of college, but I know someone who still hasn’t found one after graduating this year,’ she said. ‘We pay all this money, and we’re not finding jobs and something needs to be changed.’

In terms of the economy, Obama plans on allowing President Bush’s tax cuts to expire for the wealthy and provide more tax breaks and credits for the middle class.

However, although a high majority of black women on campus plan on supporting Obama in the upcoming election, Clinton still won a large portion of the population.

‘I like a lot of her views and the points she makes during the debates,’ freshman Jasmine Hudson said. ‘Not only that, but I don’t think the world is ready for a black leader just yet. People say racism is over, but it’s still everywhere you look.’

Similarly, freshman Christina Hunter said she supports Clinton because of her strong qualities and straightforward approach on the plans she has for America.

Hunter also approved of the changes made by former President Bill Clinton when he was in office, and hopes Hillary Clinton will follow in her husband’s footsteps.

And though the candidates have captured much of the nation’s attention on their own, there are those who feel they would make more of a difference together.

‘I was shocked to see them on a separate ballot,’ Owens said.

‘I wish they would run together because they both have that kind of sternness that wouldn’t allow people to push them around. We haven’t seen that since Teddy Roosevelt was in office.’

But regardless of who takes Ohio in the upcoming primary, the consensus is that the issues must come before the outward appearance.

‘Our society gets lost in the stereotypes rather than the issues,’ Gilbert said. ‘If you just take the time to get to know the minorities around you, when these kinds of issues come up in politics, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision on who you want to represent you for the next four years.’

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