A panel of scholars, activists and millennial leaders participated in a discussion on millennials and the election hosted by UCI Vice Chancellor Thomas A. Parham and New Narratives in UCI’s Pacific Ballroom on Oct. 26.
Renowned scholar Michael Eric Dyson was the featured guest. Other panelists included Black Lives Matter organizer Ashley Yates, Nevada politician Lucy Flores, and Grammy-winning artist Malik Yusef.
The event’s moderator, hip-hop artist Jasiri X, brought in Yates, Flores, and Yusef for the first hour of the discussion, first addressing Yusef, who is black and a member of the Republican Party, on whether Donald Trump’s candidacy marks the end of the party.
“I don’t think Trump’s candidacy ends the Republican Party,” said Yusef. “I think it reevaluates it.”
Yusef went on to say he believes Trump’s rhetoric “doesn’t have anything to do with politics.” All three panelists agreed that Trump’s candidacy has been severely detrimental to American society.
Flores, the first Latina elected to Nevada legislature, stressed the importance of this election, especially for the Latino community.
“For immigrants and for the Latino community,” said Flores, “words matter. Words inspire action. Words inspire beliefs and feelings and what we have seen Trump do with that rhetoric inspires some really awful things in this country.”
“Trump literally accelerated the process of turning states blue by 10 to 20 years,” Flores also pointed out.
Yates echoed this sentiment by saying this potential is “not because we’re inspired by a candidate but because we so fear the other one. We’re voting from a fear-based place.”
Yates was also asked whether she thought a vote for a third-party candidate was a wasted vote.
“We’ve seen this before,” said Yates. “We’ve seen the climate set for certain communities to be scapegoated and ostracized and mass incarcerated… [Trump] has set the climate and the culture and I do believe he has the connections to put people in power that will be able to continue it out, so right now it’s not a wasted vote but there’s too much at stake.”
“We can’t just defeat Trump,” said Flores. “We have to, under no uncertain terms, reject his entire platform and his politics of hate.”
The discussion then turned to police brutality. Yusef explained how increased funding of small police departments by the Department of Justice (DOJ) provided officers with more firepower. Departments also became less selective in their hiring of officers, which essentially meant that average civilians were being given badges and guns and the authority to use them.
“They expanded these small Andy Griffith-style departments into the Gestapo,” said Yusef.
Yates agreed that the system is more to blame than police officers themselves.
“The police have had to fill too many slots in our society that people shouldn’t respond to with guns and weapons,” she noted. “When I’m calling for somebody who is in the midst of a mental health crisis, the first person I need to see is not somebody with a gun.”
Vice Chancellor Parham then approached the stage with questions of his own. He first mentioned the audience’s visible reaction to Yusef being a black Republican.
“There is this thing with our community where we think we are so homogeneous, that ‘black’ and ‘Republican’ don’t collide in the same sentence for most of us… There is this thing called response specificity, where we assume that because you are black, you’ve got to look this way, talk this way, act this particular way and if you don’t somehow, we are violating whatever that cultural norm is.”
With particular consideration to the millennials, Vice Chancellor Parham asked each panelist to address the issue of activist segregation.
To Yusef, the notion of “the government” as a single entity is the problem.
“We haven’t had a clean bill in the United States since 1942,” said Yusef. “Every bill is loaded. If you’re for cats being alive, you have to be for the elimination of butterflies. So it forces a particular type of segregation because you have to pick an issue, you have to pick a team… The only solution is to be able to open up the dialogue between Holy Grail politicians and average everyday citizens like ourselves. We have to have access to these people. They do not live in an ivory tower.”
“America is a rich country because it was built for free,” said Yates. “America has never been able to survive without a class with exploited labor… that means that a lot of people are afraid to imagine a future without that.”
In the second hour, Vice Chancellor brought Dyson to the stage to respond the Trump candidacy.
“Even though the good Republican party has gone atwitter with the rise of Donald Trump,” joked Dyson, “that’s y’all baby. Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, not the monster. If the doctor created Frankenstein, now Frankenstein came back to bite the doctor in the behind and kill him, the same way this monster is ravaging the Republican party. The poop in that diaper is from the diet you fed him.”
For many Americans and Republican politicians, the recently released Access Hollywood tape of Trump admitting to sexual assault was the last straw, but it shouldn’t have been. Dyson said Americans should have seen the negative effects of a Trump candidacy coming.
“Now we got white masculine dominance, heterosexual cisgender patriarchy, articulating the heart of American values as a rape culture, as a demonization [and]… dehumanization of women.”
He also said America needs to actively work to eradicate the discriminatory ideology embedded in its society.
“Racism is not going to be automatically removed with the erasure of certain forms of inequality because the ideology and value structure assigned to whiteness means that even poor white people feel they’re better than you, and you could be a black millionaire.”
“I think we ought to have tender hearts for victims of rape culture,” continued Dyson, “for women more broadly who continue to make less than men doing the same thing, for people of color who continue to work in a world, in a society that disrespects them, and those victims of police brutality… I think we need to be tough minded with some of these religious people… We’ve got to stop making excuses for people who try to get God to co-sign their bigotry.”
The discussion wrapped up with the panelists urging audience members to vote and get involved in community and national issues.
“As individuals we are incredibly powerful,” stressed Flores, “and we are incredibly influential and every single one of you exists in your own microcosm and you can have such a powerful effect and impact on others and your community.”
“We have been here before,” concluded Dyson. “Not quite the same way perhaps, but we have seen similar antecedents… the beautiful thing about history is that we can overcome it… I refuse to give in to the belief that Donald Trump will establish the baseline for our humanity as a nation. I refuse to believe that he will have the last word on what that might be.”