As is usually the case at Republican campaign events, the crowd of hundreds attending a Marco Rubio rally this weekend in Bedford, NH was overwhelmingly white. There were a total of three African-Americans in attendance: Taisha Henry and Ugonma Uboni-Ebere, graduate students in journalism at NYU, and their professor Yvonne Latty. The group was in New Hampshire reporting on the lead-up to the primary as part of a group project and intended to film the rally, as they had done at numerous other events.
The group immediately attracted the attention of Rubio’s campaign staffers, who told them that they couldn’t film because they didn’t have press credentials. This all occurred as dozens of white attendees were clearly filming the event unharassed, including a white member of the same class who had set up a large camera on a tripod. When Henry and Uboni-Ebere pointed this out to the staffers they were ignored and only attracted further scrutiny. Then, even after the women had put away their cameras, staffers continued to sternly warn them they couldn’t film, creating, as Professor Latty said, “a really tense atmosphere.”
The implication was clear enough: Rubio’s staffers believed that the group of African-American women were Democratic spies purely on account of their skin color. The students were understandably shaken by the experience, with Latty saying “It was a really horrible experience…. To be singled out that way while you are standing next to your white classmates. Repeatedly. They weren’t even doing anything.” After continuing to be harassed by the staffers, the group left the rally, prompting a fellow professor – who is white – to complain about the racial profiling. It was only then that Latty and her students were re-admitted, this time with full press credentials.
The incident is certainly an indication of the work our society still has to do to combat pervasive institutional racism. And nowhere is this need more clear than in the Republican Party, where implicit racism – in policy as well as rhetoric – continues to be overwhelmingly tolerated. Marco Rubio himself has said that he is “deeply concerned” about the racial profiling of African-Americans by the police – although his policies would suggest the opposite – and yet he is yet to reply in any way to this alarming incident of racial profiling within his own campaign apparatus.
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James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.