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Why My Students Couldn’t Relate to Romney

Why My Students Couldn’t Relate to Romney

The minority vote, and in particular the Latino vote, definitely helped Obama win. 80 percent of Latino, black and Asians voted for Obama in last week’s election, the same percentage as in 2008. In 2050, non-Hispanic whites are to become half or slightly less of the U.S. population and the GOP had best look out: So many have been commenting in the wake of the President’s reelection.

I have been feeling a bit bemused at all this commentary and not only because I’m Asian-American. In my Latin and ancient Greek classes at a small university in Jersey City, New Jersey, where white students are a minority, I often brought up the topic of elections in the weeks leading up to November 6. At my school, white students make up about 28 percent of the student population; black students, about 27 percent; Hispanic students, about 26 percent; Asian students about 11 percent.

Whenever I mentioned Mitt Romney, my students blinked and showed no response, so alien did the now-former GOP candidate seem to them.

While discussing democracy in ancient Athens and in the Roman Republic, I pointed out to my students that none of them, and certainly not myself, would have been eligible to vote, as only male citizens could. Women could not vote; resident foreigners (“metics” in ancient Greece) could not vote; slaves (who may have comprised a third of the population and were often one’s former, conquered, enemies) certainly could not vote.

After hearing all this, a young woman who’s from the Islands approached me after class and nervously asked me, did I think it was worth the effort for her to apply to vote by mail.

Of course! Every vote, your vote, counts, I immediately replied.

The student told me that she had already filled out the mail-in ballot application but could I look it over for her. She also asked me if I knew where she could purchase a stamp. I started to talk about the nearest post office, then realized that it is not close to the campus, it is not in the greatest neighborhood and, the last time I went there, there was one clerk behind the bars and bullet-proof glass and one very long line.

I told my student I would bring her a stamp. After she had left, another student who was waiting for the next class said he was now going to send in his mail-in ballot.

A few days later, the topic of Obama and the election surfaced again with a student (he is studying Greek to read the New Testament as he wants to be a minister) who’s from a town next to Newark where on many a winter day, the public schools were closed because there was no heat as a boiler had broken again and there weren’t readily available funds to fix it.  ”Dr. Chew, I wasn’t able to vote in the last election because I was turning 18 in 2008 — and my birthday was the day after the election!” he said, clearly disappointed that he hadn’t been able to vote in the election that resulted in our first African-American president.

We talked a little about the first debate and my student looked sad and pained — I felt the same — in recalling Obama’s lackluster performance. We both agreed, after the past four years, we were having a hard time imagining seeing someone who wasn’t a minority in the White House.

“You can vote this time,” I said. “Yes and I am,” my student affirmed.

It’s been almost two weeks since I have seen my students. The Friday before Hurricane Sandy hit was Eid al-Adha and many students who are Muslim were not in class as they were celebrating the holiday. My school was closed for a week and a day because there was no electricity after the storm. Last Tuesday as I was nervously watching the votes being counted, I felt a rush of cheer on reading a status update from a student (who is black, Latina and Asian): ”All my love to President Obama.”

Election day has come and gone but for sure I’m asking my students if they voted. One can never be sure, but I’ve a good idea who many voted for.

 

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165 comments

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1:38AM PST on Nov 9, 2013

Perhaps a review of THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE would make good subject matter for your class ... same symptoms now breeding. History repeats don't you know?

1:14PM PST on Feb 6, 2013

the proper candidate won

5:26PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Interesting article and comments, thank you.

5:25PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Interesting article and comments, thank you.

1:39PM PST on Nov 15, 2012

(continued)

Did you never read the Republican platform, notice the Republican actions, their willingness to destroy America's credit rating and economy in order to gain power over Americans and America for corporate benefit by draining them all, to gain any idea of its plans for those not in the top 1%?

Luckily, enough other Americans did to save us - not just America, but the world at risk.

1:37PM PST on Nov 15, 2012

Sharon R., do you seriously want to see America run by somebody strictly from his viewpoint of corporate and personal profit using public property and the taxpayers money for his personal enrichment?

To see America run by a loose cannon with no ability for normal social behaviours, never mind diplomacy?

To having America viewed by the rest of the world as a hot-bed of dangerous lunacy run by a corporate predator who has his finger on the button of global atomic doom and has shown no understanding of the dangers involved in his behaviour and plans, even of the hazards to himself?

To re-enter another period of endless war/invasion determined strictly by profits gained for the few and the requests of war-mongering advisers?

Do you really want to see yourself and your family - assuming you aren't one of the multi-millionaire/billionaires in the 'in crowd' - used and sacrificed for corporate enrichment, with no protections of any kind for you, your family, the environment on which you depend as your life support system?

Do you seriously want to see children deprived of education, workers of pay as the minimum wage system is dropped entirely and people below CEO level work for food, when they can get it, with no social safety net for you and yours, whether out of work, ill or in old age?

Did you never read the Republican platform, notice the Republican actions, their willingness to destroy America's credit rating and economy in order to gain power over Ameri

1:24PM PST on Nov 15, 2012

@Sharon R, I really doubt that America will come to regret their choice. I think it's you who has missed the point of the article. Romney is not the nice talented businessman that you see him to be. And the students and the rest of the voting population clearly saw that.

11:31AM PST on Nov 15, 2012

I didn't really get the point to this article-- how was Romney involved other than the fact he's not a minority? Personally I think America missed the point. An incredibly talented and motivated businessman offered his services to the country to help it regain its economic stability. Not only was Obama lackluster in the first debate, he's been lackluster consistently in regards to economic gains. We may really regret not having accepted Romney's services in the years to come.

4:11AM PST on Nov 15, 2012

thanks

11:06AM PST on Nov 14, 2012

Thank you for the article.
Thanks everyone for their great comments...well almost everyone.
But..then again, in a way, I am pleased to see the naysayers.
There is always that SLIM chance that if they continue to "hang around" the rest of us...
Some part of us just MAYBE might rub off onto them.
Ya think ?
I hope so.
Well, Liberals/Progressives do tend to be Dreamers, and I mean that in a VERY very positive way.

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