8 Things Bernie Sanders Supporters Need to Stop Saying to Black People
Say Bernie Sanders' name in a tone on Twitter that’s anything less than overly enthusiastic and one of his supporters will burst onto your timeline like the Kool-Aid Man. It’s become a predictable annoyance for many, particularly black people, who haven’t made their decision on who they are voting for in the 2016 election. Despite being one of the most loyal constituent groups for Democrats, the Black Community has never truly been courted for their votes by democratic candidates. That has all changed thanks to activists involved with or motivated by the Black Lives Matter movement. These activists have refused to not let their voices be heard by forcing the issues. It’s been extremely effective but some liberals aren’t happy about the tactics.
No group is more unhappy - and annoying about how unhappy they are - than Bernie Sanders supporters. They’re so annoying, last week I was explaining why Black Lives Matters disrupted a Hillary Clinton campaign event and I got more angry Sanders supporters in my mentions than Clinton. The most annoying thing about dealing with Bernie Sanders supporters is that they always end up saying the same thing. I remember when Rod from The Black Guy Who Tips was explaining the joke #BernieSoBlack and then had to deal with at least of month of harassment from Sanders supporters. Each time, he would end up responding to the same statements. At one point the responses were so predictable, I thought he was just going to have to put up an auto-reply for Sanders supporters. Rod’s experience isn’t unique. Many of us outspoken black people have had to deal with the same responses/questions from Sanders supporters the minute we say something less than flattering about Sanders. Here are the Top 8 things I need Bernie Sanders supporters to stop saying to Black people:
“He marched with MLK”
You know, just in case we haven’t been told this 500 other times prior. This is straight from the Well Intentioned White Person handbook. Telling me that Bernie Sanders marched with MLK has the same affect on me as when I’m on Tinder and I see a white woman has a picture of herself surrounded by African kids. You know, to show how involved she is and how much she cares. Oddly enough that’s usually also the woman who has “I don’t date black guys” in her profile as well but that’s a topic for another article. Anyway, just like when I see this self congratulatory “see I care” picture on Tinder, when I hear “He marched with MLK”, I’m rolling my eyes and swiping left. A lot of Sanders supporters are living vicariously through his allyship - as if one white liberal being an ally transfers by osmosis to the rest of white liberals. Just because Sanders marched with MLK in the 60’s and you support Sanders doesn’t mean that you are supportive of the black community. The laws of transference do not apply here. Also, just because Sanders marched with MLK doesn’t mean he absolved of having to answer demands from the black community in 2015.
“You just aren’t informed of his record”
Every time I see this it’s accompanied by the same link to a list of 20 things Bernie Sanders has done. If I have to read one more time about how Sanders raised money for Korean Orphans I swear I’m going to lose it. Trust me, most of us are very aware of Bernie Sanders’ liberal record. We’re also aware of the fact that he’s a white liberal with a majority white liberal base. This means he gets the privilege of voting very liberally on issues and never really having to deal with the consequences. This means he can vote “No” on the Patriot Act knowing that his vote actually doesn’t matter but then parade the fact that he voted “No” around as if he’s a champion for all people. It’s easy to vote “No” on something knowing that there will be little consequence of your vote. Go back and read that list of 20 things Sanders has done see how effective he's actually been at being a politician. The real interesting thing to me though is when a liberal politician is forced to vote on something that their liberal constituency is a bit more conservative on. Say…gun rights. Now Bernie Sanders has tried to explain his gun votes to allow manufacturers to be exempt from being held responsible when their products are used to kill people. The problem is, his explanation has clear racist dog whistle implications:
I’m sorry but guns end up on the streets of places like Chicago or Los Angeles because of lax gun laws in states like Vermont. Notice Sanders didn’t pick out Aurora or Newtown or other places affected by gun violence. He listed some inner cities where gun violence is stereotypically synonymous with minorities. If a Republican said this, we wouldn't be giving it a pass.
“So you would rather support a corporate shill like Hillary Clinton?”
Here’s a quick little fact for you: Most of the black people who criticize and push Bernie Sanders for more aren’t exactly thrilled with Hillary Clinton either. Would we rather support Clinton? No, that’s why we don’t mind seeing Sanders being forced to put up or shut up. Here’s the other thing about Clinton. I’m not big fan of hers but there’s no question that she has the ability to handle the job. We watched her handle Republicans in that Benghazi Hearing for 11 hours like a she was a skilled swordsman toying with novices with one hand tied behind her back. Compare that to Bernie Sanders who let a handful of black activists completely fluster him twice on issues that should have been easy layups for him. Being cool under fire and handling the opposition when they’re throwing everything at you is part of the job as President. On that front, Hilary Clinton is miles above Bernie Sanders and yes, that matters to a lot of voters. So honestly, you should be thanking activists for snapping Sanders back to reality.
“He’s done more for black people than any other politician?”
Allow Maury to handle this for me:
Let’s ignore all the black House Democrats that have fought their entire careers for their black constituents. Let’s ignored Senators like Elizabeth Warren who - since we're giving credit to Sanders for speaking out - gave a better Black Lives Matter speech than any of the democrats running for President. Let’s just focus on President Obama. Aside from the positive effects health care reform and lowering the disparity in drug sentencing, there are several things that Sanders gets credit for that the President has done as well. Speaking about police violence? The president has done that. Not only that, but he’s set aside money for body cameras, ended a program that sends military grade equipment to police departments and even explained why Black Lives Matter is being said in a better way than Bernie has. Matter of fact, for a good portion of this year, the President has been very vocal about talking about Criminal Justice Reform and doing things about it. He’s the first sitting president to ever visit a prison and had a candid sit down talk with inmates. He’s about to sign an executive order to prohibit federal employees from asking about an applicant’s criminal history. Sorry, he's done more than Bernie Sanders. So stop using this faulty line.
“I just don’t get the point of interrupting someone on your side”
Remember when Cenk Uygar had this to say about Black Lives Matter interrupting Bernie Sanders at Netroots Nation?
Compare that to what he had to say about Code Pink interrupting President Obama:
Funny how that works. Funny how he was able to say "I would do it a different way but I'm not Code Pink" then go on to criticizing the Media's handling of Code Pink versus spending most of his time in the first video criticizing the methods of Black Lives Matter. Interesting.
Also let’s think about some of the vitriol and hate spewed at the protesters at Netroots Nation and the Seattle protest. If these are people on our side then I’m having a hard time differentiating that from what our enemies say. Just because someone is a Democrat or Liberal doesn’t automatically make them a supporter of the Black Community. Have we forgotten that the Democratic Governor of Missouri Jay Nixon was tweeting about the State Fair as protesters in Ferguson were demanding help from the government after being tear gassed and beaten by police? Also Bob McCulloch, the DA many think never truly wanted to arrest and charge Darren Wilson, is also a Democrat. As for liberals, Bill Maher and Piers Morgan have shown plenty of times that being a liberal doesn’t mean you can’t be a racist. But this goes back to what I said about black people checking white liberals who just want the label not actually put the work in to earn it. Sorry, that "Liberal" tag isn't enough to get you a pass anymore. Truth is, it never was acceptable. It's just too hard to ignore the people calling it out now.
“This is hurting your cause”/ “This is turning me off from the whole movement”
This is one of my favorite lines from Bernie Sanders supporters. It’s also the one that is most likely to send me flying into a rage. It must be nice to treat black life mattering like a "cause" you're picking from a Golden Corral buffet. If your support of Black Lives Matter is conditional on whether your champion candidate is treated with kids glove or not, then you never supported the movement. This is the line of thinking I see from so many "Well Intentioned White Liberals”. If I wasn’t already bald, it would make me tear my hair out. Black people are tired of being killed by police and justice not being served. We’re tired of politicians using us for votes then ignoring us when its time for policy changes. The majority in this country has enjoyed the privilege of only listening to the cries of the underrepresented when it suits their own selfish needs. Right now, there are a lot of white liberals who say “Black Lives Matter” but they only say that because it's a trend to them. Either they just want to feel good about supporting a cause that they can pat themselves on the back about or they want support for their candidate. As soon as black activists start challenging their privilege, all the sudden that support becomes conditional. What this really sounds like is that because black activists dare challenge Bernie Sanders you’re prepared to go back to ignoring the plight of black people dying at the hands of police. Never mind that Bernie Sanders himself admitted that he handled these situations wrong. Never mind that these tactics have led to a Democratic primary where issues of the black community are front and center for the first time. No, you're going to throw a temper tantrum because things aren't going the way you want and therefore you will ignore all facts that prove how effective this is. This feels a lot like policing the respectability of black people. We're only good enough for your support when we're quiet, articulate, "good" blacks. This line of thinking doesn't make you much different from conservatives who say the same thing.
“Why don’t they interrupt the real enemy like the GOP?”
Let’s set aside the fact that Black Lives Matter activist have interrupted GOP candidates because that fact alone isn’t the only reason this is annoying to hear. Let’s really think about what’s being asked here.The GOP has firmly planted their flag on the position that Black Lives Matter activist are police hating, race baiting, terrorists. They’re not ashamed of this position and don’t care to change. Why should they? The GOP, unlike Democrats, don't care to cater to the black vote because as far as they are concerned they don’t need it. Even if they did, I don’t think it would be much different. Look at how our brown Latino brothers and sisters are treated when they dare speak up and protest at these events. There’s the time a man decided to spit on a protester. How about the woman that gleefully shouted “White Power”? Oh and then there’s the time a man was literally assaulted on camera at a Trump event. The man who committed the assault was cheered by the crowd. This is happening to Latino protesters and the GOP NEEDS the Latino vote. It’s pretty tone deaf to see these reactions then wonder why Black people, who already feel like their lives mean so little to the GOP would put themselves at risk even more. Donald Trump actually threatened to fight activists if they interrupted him. GOP rallies these days are one step below Klan rallies and are NOT a safe space for minorities. If you were as much of an ally as you claim, you wouldn’t even be questioning this.
“I just don’t understand why…” [followed by one of the phrases above or some other irrelevant statement]
This is a catchall phrase that is usually said after its been explained exactly why these protests and interruptions are happening. This is said because the person saying it doesn’t want to understand. This is up there with the white people who continue to ask "But why can't I wear black face?" after years and years of explanations. Better people than me have explained why these protests happen the way they do. There are a plethora of brilliant people who have tried to educate by explaining the frustration and desperation many in the the black community feel. No matter what is said, no matter how well it is said, many of these Bernie Sanders supporters will read it and then STILL say “But I just don’t understand why…” It’s the most predictable response out of all of the responses above. It will always happen because the person saying it never wanted to understand in the first place. This is why I’ve stopped wasting my time explaining and have hopped right to DEFCON 1 when dealing with many of these people. In 2015, I’m not begging for empathy from people who don’t ever want to actually care.
See, here’s the reality of this situation. Being an ally is granted on a probationary period. At any point it can be snatched from you. So many liberals treat being an ally to a underrepresented group like its the latest fad, like being gluten free when you’re not allergic to gluten or being a vegan (despite the human labor that goes into picking your damn vegetables). Our pain and suffering are Halloween costumes they can throw on for a bit and take off whenever they want. Truth is, so many white liberals cosplay as allies for underrepresented minorities. They don’t actually dig down into the root of the issue or know what it actually means to be an ally. The best allies sit back, shut the Hell up and support whenever asked. That's not the type of "ally" these folks want to be. They want to dictate the terms in which they give support. They want to give input and guide how the movement goes. That's not a right they have. Your opinion on how a movement that doesn’t concern you operates is irrelevant. Many of these "allies" just want the merit badge to show off to other liberals to prove how much they “care”. Well, I hate to break it to you. Black Lives Matter isn’t one of these causes you can run to “collect them all” like Pokemon. Either you support it unconditionally or you don’t support it at all. Period. Don’t try to hide behind your support for Bernie Sanders. Truth is, Bernie Sanders has been more receptive to the criticism from activists than his supporters.
So if you’re a Sanders supporter and you find yourself saying one of these phrases above…stop. You’re not helping out your candidate and you’re definitely not making yourself look any better. All you're doing is telling on yourself. Might be time to really take an introspective look at what you really support and just how much of a liberal and/or ally you really are. Oh and to the black Bernie Sanders supporters out there. You gotta start checking these white supporters who you know are crossing the line. Standing by and watching them spew dog whistle racism isn't a good look for you.