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5 Issues to Listen For During the First Presidential Debate

During the first presidential debate, candidates will discuss the direction, prosperity and security of America. Tune in and use the following listening guide to hear what candidates are saying on issues that matter to communities of color. Join the conversation on social media using #FirstDebate. Follow @adv_project for live commentary.

Police & Safety

The criminalization of people of color has cost the lives and freedom of too many Black and Brown men, women, and children. Today, police disproportionately harass, shoot and kill Black adults and youth. In states like New York, Blacks and Latinx residents are also unfairly stopped-and-frisked on suspicion of illegal activity, even though they’re less likely to be in violation of the law than whites. The recent police killings of Keith Lamont Scott in North Carolina, 13-year old Tyre King in Ohio and Terrence Crutcher in Oklahoma show the consistent attack people of color. While white communities experience police that protect and serve, while Black and Latinx communities receive law and order policing. These same police departments are given millions of dollars from Congress to pay for military equipment that has been used against citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to hold government accountable.

Economic Inequality

People of color still lag far behind their white counterparts when it comes to wealth and income. The wage gap between Blacks and Latinx, and whites is worst today that it was nearly 40 years ago. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute confirms that racial discrimination was, and still remains, the driver of this gap, outweighing factors like education, work and experience. As a result, people of color continue to face an uphill battle towards achieving the American Dream.


More than 11 million immigrants, many people of color, live in the shadows under fear of arrest or deportation as a result of an immigration system that works to tear families and communities apart every day. Racial profiling continues as a practice across the nation, feeding workers, parents, and family members into our criminal system. When it comes to national security, immigrants of color are the first to be singled out, profiled, marginalized and persecuted. Reckless deportation policies feed the nation’s prison industrial complex, criminalizing adults and young children alike. Many are detained in for-profit private prisons lacking access to adequate healthcare or education. Read Advancement Project’s case study in Georgia, Manufacturing Felonies.

Voting Rights

The 2016 election will be the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. As a result of weakened legislation, many states have enacted strict Voter ID laws, cut early voting periods and took deliberate steps to prevent those with prior felony convictions from voting. Congress has failed to move the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore protections due to a lack of bipartisan support. Efforts by state legislators in Virginia would permanently disenfranchise those many with felonies for life. Read Judith Browne Dianis’ recent op-ed on The Washington Post decrying the racist intent behind these laws.

Education & School to Prison Pipeline

Over the past 20 years, communities of color have experienced the divestment, closure and privatization of traditional public schools. Overly harsh school discipline policies and the presence of police in schools are pushing many students of color from the classroom into the criminal justice system. Black and Latinx students are disproportionately suspended, expelled, and even arrested for minor infractions. Today, 1.6 million students attend schools that have no school counselor, but employ a sworn police officer in their building. The misallocation of funding to punish students of color as opposed to nurturing them has only calcified the school-to-prison pipeline. Read Advancement Project’s reports on the impact of school closures and on limiting the use of police force.

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