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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

Campaign played race card at speech

As an avid feminist and admirer of empowered women everywhere, I was thrilled when I found out Michelle Obama was coming to speak at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Once my friend Hannah told me the news, I got into my car and drove to campus.

For five hours, she and I took turns manning our spot in line. By the time I finally got our tickets, I was tired, hungry and drenched in sweat, but I still thought it was worth it.

Not even the parking ticket on my dashboard could bring me down.

On the day of the event, the two of us could hardly contain our excitement.

As we were getting closer to the entrance, one of the staff members came up and asked if we were in a group.

“It’s just us,” I said.

She asked if “us” included the man who was next to Hannah. I clarified that it didn’t and, seemingly satisfied with the answer, she placed green stickers on our tickets.

We assumed it was a way to keep track of students, so we proceeded toward the security checkpoint.

As it turns out, the stickers allowed us to enter the arena without having to go up the stairs like everyone else. The fast passes led us to incredible seats about 15 feet from the lectern.

While Hannah read a textbook, I noticed the juxtaposition of the cameras and the people who were sitting next to us.

That’s when it hit me — I had waited seven hours to be used as a human prop.

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The four rows had an unusually large number of Hispanic, black and Asian students. There were sprinkles of white people in the group, but minorities took up most of the space.

Granted, we were all there because we wanted to hear the speech, but by putting us all in the “glamour shot,” they basically racially profiled us into our seats.

When I pointed out my theory, one of the guys behind us joked, “Yes! We made it.”

Nobody else seemed too bothered by the fact that we might have been chosen to sit there to showcase diversity.

The possibility of a prepackaged audience didn’t sit well with me.

It might be naïve of me to be surprised by the diversity roundup in a political event, but I still felt used. Despite loving the speech, I was left a bit perplexed by the situation.

The use of minorities to polish political images in a college setting highlights a larger problem: the exploitation of specific groups to push entire campaign agendas.

When candidates attend rallies for specific minority groups, the issues are labeled as pertinent to them. One example is Mitt Romney’s “Meet the Candidate” event on Wednesday.

He spoke about the issues that affect Latino voters, which apparently include immigration, education and foreign policy. Last I heard, many of us were more concerned with the economy, but since I was born in South America, I guess that isn’t as relevant.

Yeah, right.

How comical would it be if candidates also held rallies that focused on white voters?

I would love to see the advertising. Maybe then my less diverse friends could get prime speech seating, too.

All jokes aside, I really hope candidates stop using minority groups to gain popularity. By addressing the nation as one and not as separate racial or ethnic cliques, candidates could unify their constituency, and they could prevent future students from feeling like chess pawns.

Valeria Delgado is a journalism senior at UF. You can contact her at opinions@alligator.org.

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