Green Party vice presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka defended his controversial comment at a CNN town hall. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Although race relations in the United States have become a prominent topic of discussion over the last several years, this past week the conversation intensified. It was hard to overlook, for instance, football player Colin Kaepernick’s politically charged decision to kneel during the national anthem. Kaepernick made headlines throughout the week and garnered support and criticism for his choice.

Those swept up in the current election season also were not immune to the spotlight on race this week. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stunned many when he met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, a meeting that was reportedly amiable. Mere hours later, however, Trump delivered a speech in which he doubled-down on his anti-immigration rhetoric and reinforced his racist reasoning for deportations. Around the same time on Wednesday night, Peña Nieto labeled Trump’s policy proposals a “threat to the future of Mexico,” effectively eliminating any guise of friendship established earlier that day.

On the Democratic side of the race, leaked emails from within the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) exposed that “Democratic campaign officials advised U.S. House of Representatives candidates not to explicitly support ‘concrete policy solutions’ proposed by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton aggressively pushed her own positions on immigration in contrast to Trump’s inflammatory speech, but she did not address the leaked DCCC emails.

Third-party nominees were caught up in the conversation about race relations, although perhaps not willingly. Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein continued to handle the aftermath of comments made by her running mate, Ajamu Baraka—several weeks ago, Baraka labeled President Obama an “Uncle Tom” president, language that he has not retracted. Stein also received heavy criticism for her own rhetoric on race in a Washington Post op-ed.

It appears Libertarian Gary Johnson was the only presidential candidate able to avoid the spotlight on race relations entirely, although whether this is a pro or a con for his little-covered campaign remains to be seen.

It’s not only the political realm that’s addressing these crucial issues. The “Desert Survival Series” demonstrates how poetry can be used as a tool for understanding immigration and advocating for better immigration policy. And one of Truthdig’s most popular cartoons this week, by artist Mike Luckovich, serves as a reminder of how a simple image can convey a powerful political message.

The conversation about race in America isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon, but this week uncomfortable topics were thrust into the forefront of the political arena. Specifically, Baraka’s “Uncle Tom” comments have been the catalyst for a debate on the acceptability of certain politically correct or incorrect phrases.

One writer argues that the “accusations and implications of racism and bigotry lobbed at” Baraka is a prime example of “white liberal racism.” Other critics, however, contend that his “disgusting” word choice is a slur and that Baraka should apologize to President Obama.

Truthdig wants to hear from you: Do you find Ajamu Baraka’s “Uncle Tom” comment inappropriate? Let us know in the poll below. One vote per person, please. (Make your selection and then click on “Vote.” To see results of the polling, click on “Results.”)

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Do you find Ajamu Baraka’s “Uncle Tom” comments inappropriate?
Yes — and he should apologize to President Obama.
Yes, but he doesn’t need to apologize.
No, they were not inappropriate.

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