Events — July 20, 2015 at 11:31 am

Post-Netroots Nation reflections on the #BlackLivesMatter protest – it’s time to reject “respectability politics”

by

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Dr. Martin Luther King

NOTE: You can view more photos from the event in Anne’s post HERE.

In the two days since black activists from the #BlackLivesMatter movement took over a Netroots Nation townhall forum with presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, much ink, virtual and otherwise, has been spilled discussing the action. As I write this, our reporting on it (HERE) has had over 36,000 pageviews and nearly 500 comments. It’s been discussed in countless articles and hashed over on multiple television programs.

Much of the discussion, however, misses crucial elements of what happened on Saturday in Phoenix. Sanders supporters have accused me of being anti-Bernie which makes it clear that they didn’t read my essay carefully. I will be clear and emphatic here: I have not decided who I will vote for in the Democratic primary next year but, after watching Sanders in action on Saturday from 20 feet away, I am less likely to vote for him now than I was before the event. Of the two candidates on the stage that day, O’Malley handled it far better than Sanders.

You can see O’Malley segment here (the protest begins around 19:30 mark):

O’Malley rarely interrupted the protesters. He treated them with respect and did not try to talk over them or to shush them. In fact, had he not blundered with his statement that “white lives matter, all lives matter” — a statement akin to declaring “all diseases matter” at an AIDS research fundraising event — he would have done as well as anyone could in that moment and his apology for making that statement in the middle of a #BlackLivesMatter protest seemed honest and sincere.

Sanders, on the other hand, handled it surprisingly badly. Here’s his section:

One thing that is hard to see and hear in this video is how Sanders kept talking while completely ignoring the protesters, not even looking at them as he plunged on with his stump speech.

When O’Malley responded to what he would do to dismantle the systemic racism that is resulting in mass incarceration of black people and the shockingly high number of black men and women dying at the hands of law enforcement, he had some specific elements and he promised more detail in his forthcoming criminal justice reform package:

Specifically, I believe that every police department in America should have to report, in an open and transparent and timely way, all police-involved shootings, all discourtesy complaints, and all brutality complaints. […]

I believe that all departments should have civilian review boards. We implemented one and it works. But they have to be staffed and it’s not enough just to have the board. You have to give them the money to hire their own detectives so they can investigate whatever they want to investigate.

While on stage, Gov. O’Malley was calm, he listened, and he was patient.

Sanders, on the other hand was impatient and, frankly, condescending. Instead of listening and hearing, he was insistent that he be able to finish his stump speech. When he finally got around to addressing the question of what he would do to address systemic, lethal racism in America, he talked about more jobs, increasing the minimum wage, debt-free college, a trade policy that emphasizes investments in America and not low-wage countries elsewhere. His only specific proposal was $13 trillion in investments to create more jobs with a passing mention of “community policing”.

As I have said publicly multiple times, I am probably more aligned politically with Bernie Sanders than any of the other candidates. However, his inability to deal with pressure from people who are mostly allies makes me fearful that he doesn’t have the temperament to be a good president. The contrast on Saturday to O’Malley’s calm patience and Sanders’ irritated impatience was stark and, in my opinion, telling.

David Dayen has probably the best analysis I’ve seen on this, though he believes that both candidates got a failing grade.

I also want to address the criticism of the BLM protesters that they were disrespectful and “didn’t let Bernie answer”. This is completely untrue. Sanders was given ample opportunity to explain what he would do to end the killing of black people by police in America and his answer was getting money out of politics, more jobs, free college, more domestic investment, and a higher minimum wage. This answer suggests one of two things (or possibly both) and both are disturbing. First, it suggests that Sanders has a song sheet that he is singing from and it doesn’t include anything that involves police killing. It’s simply not on his radar.

Another possibility is that Sanders believes that black people being killed by police is a direct result of them living in poverty. This, while not overtly racist, is, at its core, incredibly racist. It suggests that Sanders believes that if they had jobs and weren’t “in the streets” to use his own words, they wouldn’t be getting killed by police. The truth is that law enforcement should NOT be killing black people in the numbers they are now for any reason and they should be not killing ANY unarmed black people. But they are. And no amount of jobs programs or free college fixes that.

I cannot and do not fault protesters from interrupting him when he was refusing to address their question. That is what holding our candidates accountable is all about and during the presidential primary is EXACTLY when we should be doing that. The idea that it’s a “circular firing squad” is absurd and shows that people aren’t interested in a real primary; they simply want to anoint their favorite candidate and be done with it.

Finally, I have read comments suggesting that this protest somehow hurts Democrats or the #BlackLivesMatter movement or the #SayHerName movement and divides us. These protesters, we’re told, should be more respectful and know their place. I reject this with the core of my progressive belief system. No significant social change in this country has EVER happened without disruptive action. From the courageous activists in the ACT-UP movement to civil rights demonstrators and beyond, every major cultural shift took place using disruption tactics and claiming a space for communicating when no space existed. If we cannot get our own allies to address important issues like police brutality and lethality, how can we expect change to happen? The notion of “respectability politics” is one that should be rejected by progressives in this situation and if you’re not rejecting it loudly, you should take a very hard look at yourself and ask why not. Because there is a strong likelihood that you are jaded by your own white privilege or your participation in the cult of personality surrounding your candidate.

And, yes, Hillary Clinton should be held accountable, as well. And, unless I miss my guess, she very much will be.

UPDATE: One thing I have received push back on was characterizing Sanders’ exit as turning his back on BLM activists. Perhaps I was too subtle in using this as a metaphor but the fact is that he did turn his back on them by insisting that the event continue to be about him and not allowing BLM the space to be heard. But that’s not all, as David Dayen reported in his piece, after the townhall, Sanders cancelled all of his remaining Netroots Nation events, “including meetings with black and brown activists” and if that’s not turning your back on them, I don’t know what is:

The reaction of the candidates after the protest was varied and significant. O’Malley spent the entire day sitting with activists, publicly apologizing for his “white/all lives matter” remarks in an interview with This Week in Blackness and generally atoning for his performance. Sanders canceled all his events, including meetings with black and brown activists. At his evening speech before 11,000 in the same convention center, he did obliquely address the issue, using practiced lines he has said in the past but with a little more depth. “If any police officer breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable,” Sanders said. On Sunday, he uttered Bland’s name at a rally in Dallas. But the no-shows earlier in the day just exacerbated the problem.

If Sanders is recalibrating his message and his approach based on Saturdays protest, I have only two words: Mission Accomplished.

  • SunriseRuby

    Bam! Right on the money.

  • historian

    That last line was necessary. I just get the impression that although not outwardly stated, that you’ll be supporting Hillary later. And it certainly makes me wonder how the tenor of the article would have been if she were the first one this happened to.

    Also, I don’t expect something like this to happen to Hillary. In fact, I’ll be moderately surprised if it does.

    • Churchlady320

      Perhaps she simply, honestly cares more? Sanders is an elitist from all I’ve been able to see. And I wanted to like him. I now loathe him. He is the same narcissistic white messiah mentality that I came to hate in the 60s, deeply racist. If class matters, it’s the conversion of people such as he to the 1% of the 99%.

      • stacyoh

        Oh yikes! Cares more? Yes, about her success. She was against gay marriage before she was for gay marriage. She was for for profit prisons before she was against them. She’s against big money in politics but is more than happy to bring on the Super Pac money. Her top donors are banks, the very people that she’s going to’reign in’. While I would love to see a woman in the White House, I will wait for Warren to do so.

        • she only “says” she is against for profit prisons now while her campaign bundlers now are for profit prison lobbyists.

      • Bobs_Vendetta

        Church lady, you have made it clear you are a servant of the Clinton political machine. Nobody who has paid any attention to Hilary Clinton over the years can honestly say that she cares more. She is pro-Wall Street all the way, and she has never taken the lead on issues of social justice. You are a Clinton devotee despite that, which suggests those issues aren’t all that important to you, either. Calling Sanders an elitist or a “narcissistic white messiah” is such a gratuitous, fallacious insult that it simply drives home the point that you are a Clinton devotee and the only issue that matters to you is getting Clinton elected. Even though that means Obama’s neoliberal economic policies will continue, and his neocon foreign policy, and the continued degradation of the Bill of Rights. All of that is okay with you.

      • David Ehrenstein

        Y
        ou don’t see very much — or very far.

  • manic mailman

    It’s not so much about “respectful and know their place” as much as it is trying to accomplish something besides yelling out hashtags. Oliver Willis nailed it the other day, these organizations need an actual plan of action instead of BS about “raising awareness” by crashing events. Everyone knows about “#BlackLivesMatter”. Press them to write a bill or reform laws.

    Sorry, but harassing Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, neither of whom is winning the nomination anyway, accomplished bupkis.

    • Churchlady320

      So why is it OK for Code Pink to holler at President Obama but not for democratically grounded allies to demand accountability from Sanders? Did you support OWS and their incredible incompetence in ANY policy arena? If not, you’re holding a racial double standard.

      • stacyoh

        It was not ok for Code Pink to holler at Obama, it was incredibly disrespectful; he’s a classy guy and handles it well. And while you may think the Occupy movement was incompetent, it was from them that I learned about income inequality, Wall Street greed and corruption, strangely all the things that people are talking about now And just what does Sanders have to be held accountable for? His 97% rating from the NAACP? Is he going to learn from Net roots? Yes I know he will, he already is.http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/19/politics/bernie-sanders-african-americans-2016-netroots/

      • manic mailman

        Not okay for Code Pink to holler at the President, and OWS was a nice idea that also suffered from a complete lack of organization and a few bad apples.

      • Sanders IS the only candidate that can beat the GOP money and media machine. Clinton has unelectable polling numbers in the general public. clinton fails to inspire much more than cynicism and apathy in Dems but she enrage engages GOP voters. if Clinton is the nominee, potential Dem voters will stay home and GOP voters will turn out en masse. If Clinton is the nominee, she cant win and GOP takes the presidency, the Senate and the House… and GOP picks all the next supreme court justices too. Sanders inspires many more ex voters, brings in more new voters and all consistent Dems will still vote for him if he is the nominee. Not so with Clintons likeability and trust numbers underwater.

  • Thomas C. Pedroni

    Did Netroots Nation fail its BLM test? According to BLM, it did. That’s why they had to interrupt. Why no discussion of this, since it is absolutely foundational to this story? And although I loved the BLM protest and think they rocked it, and am glad they did not allow themselves to be shut down, Vargas was clearly flailing as a moderator. I feel for him, and have no idea how I would have handled it, but then Netroots did not pick me as a moderator. Maybe this is a Netroots double fail– first by not creating a space for BLM voice in the first place; and then flailing in its facilitation of the conversation. A really good moderator would see more options beyond the choice of shutting down or not shutting down BLM’s awesome action. I’m glad BLM stuck it to Netroots nation. Hopefully Netroots will grow from this. Or maybe they will just blame their guests. Maybe it’s Netroots nation that is not ready for either BLM or hosting presidential candidates. Very high quality moderation when you are on a world stage is crucial, particularly when so much is at stake. So the question that this begs for me is– is Netroots Nation irrelevant, or can it atone for its mistakes, particularly in relation to what disturbed BLM. It’s not just the Robin Hood cap wearing Bernie supporters who BLM took issue with.

    • Thomas C. Pedroni

      And Chris, you can quiet the critics who say you’re in the end only about Hillary by explaining to them that you would not and have not taken funding from individual candidate campaigns.

    • stacyoh

      From my understanding and also their web page this event was about immigration reform. It is also my understanding that both candidates were to meet the BLM after the Town Hall. If they want the focus to be on their cause, why don’t they host an event?

      • Churchlady320

        They did. O’Malley went. Sanders did not. Read the end of Chris’ post.

        • stacyoh

          I did and I still don’t understand . I really do feel that this is an issue that should have its own event though.

    • Creed Pogue

      and now that you have had plenty of time to decide how YOU would have handled it better, why don’t you enlighten us? Enabling destructive action is not helpful. If either O’Malley or Sanders had said “Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland.” what would have been the next step? The BLM protest was a temper tantrum. Nothing more. There was no positive agenda besides “pay attention to me!” That advances nothing.

  • Somekindof Homo-Sapien

    Bernie Sanders is doing more and has done more for BLM than any candidate currently running, so take your paid attack ad somewhere else I’m not buying it, as a native American I’m voting for Bernie be cuz he’s not for sale, and neither am i.

    Thank you for inspiring me to donate more to Bernie Sanders.
    #feelthebern

    • 7thangel

      drip, drip, drip. dripping with condescension.

  • matt

    Nice to see that you continue to cherry pick evidence to suit your own pre-determined point of view. Not only did Bernie Sanders address the issue by providing actual solutions at the end of Netroots Nation, but he has been doing it throughout his campaign. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtkGLk7M7zs
    And not only did he listen to the protesters at Netroots Nation, but he talked to people at another event on how to better address issues of racial discrimination. http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/19/politics/bernie-sanders-african-americans-2016-netroots/
    There is no doubt that Bernie Sanders focuses primarily on the issues of income inequality (something that often goes hand-in-hand with racism), but to say that he completely ignores racial issues is disingenuous at best.

    • Churchlady320

      Those are NOT solutions for murderous racism directed at people of color. Those are solutions for the uncomfortable white people for whom life is an irritant not a lethal experience.

      • stacyoh

        No they aren’t. And solutions are not going to be had in a stump speech or a sound byte. It’s only going to happen when people come together and listen. And while I don’t think white people think life is an irritant I absolutely believe life for people of color is a lethal experience. BLM did get a lot of people talking; I hope there’s going to be listening too

      • matt

        Then please, educate me, I’m listening. What solutions do you want to see pursued outside of reforming the criminal justice system, body cams, reducing incarceration and “tough on crime” policies, better police training and community policing techniques, and holding police officers accountable for their actions?

        These all seem like good solutions to end systemic prejudice, so I’m genuinely curious, what more do you want to see accomplished?

  • Bobs_Vendetta

    What we saw at Netroots Nation was inexcusable. It was beyond stupid for Black Lives Matter activists to make such an ass of themselves at a forum where they could’ve been heard and their concerns taken seriously.
    They trampled on the rights of (a) these two candidates to be heard, and (b) people in the audience to ask questions of these candidates. Had they done so in a manner which engaged the candidates in dialogue, and maybe taught some folks in the audience some things — this might have been a teachable moment worth the disruption.
    I have heard or read NOBODY who said the Black Lives Matter protestors should “know their place” as you claim.
    You are right that “No significant social change in this country has EVER happened without disruptive action.” But you need to be smart about it. Suppose Martin Luther King and John Lewis had disrupted Congress when they were trying to write the Civil Rights Act. They didn’t; they confronted people like Bull Connor and caused disruption where it needed to be caused. Suppose women who demanded the right to vote harassed and disrupted meetings organized by Susan B. Anhony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, instead of causing disruptions with people who were getting in the way of women’s voting rights.

    Anybody on the left who thinks this is the way to bring about change needs to go back to activist 101. This is not how you do it. This only breeds division with potential supporters and fear or disgust among those who don’t support you but who might.

    • Churchlady320

      EVERYBODY on the Left thinks this is how you make change! What the hell do you think OWS and Code Pink and immigrants in the Capitol gallery have been all about? So it’s OK to screech at the president who is DOING what you want but not at someone who has a stump speech and no solutions yet claims to be progressive? What a lousy set of double standards you have.

      • stacyoh

        My point and question was if they were supposed to meet with them afterwards why did they feel the need to disrupt the town hall meeting?

      • Bobs_Vendetta

        With all due respect, church lady, you are mixing apples and oranges and grapefruits.
        Occupy confronted the source of the problems they were protesting, which was, after all, why the main site was at Wall Street. Their marches and protests were directed at giant banks. When politicans supportive of their cause (like Bernie Sanders) came to their campsite, they didn’t attack or interrupt these politicians, they talked with them.

        Code Pink also confronted the source of the problems they were protesting, mainly, the Congress and the President. I never saw them disrupt a meeting or rally of a member of Congress who opposed the wars, treating them like they were part of the problem.

        Black Lives Matter, on the other hand, attacked Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley with no interest in dialogue or education. Just attack. And you won’t find a better politician in American than Berrnie Sanders on issues of economic justice. (Issues which are vital to black Ameircans. Just ask Martin Luther King or Jesse Jackson.)
        He is also excellent in supporting issues of social justice. The difference is, he hasn’t shown the leadership on these issues as he has with issues of economic justice. So dialogue with him; urge him to take more of a lead on these issues; offer to work with him on doing so. Be part of the solution and help him become part of the solution.
        Otherwise, you’re tearing down just to tear down, sowing division among potential supporters, and insuring your cause gets nowhere.
        Or maybe you’re just trolling on behalf of the Clinton political machine.

        • They didn’t “attack” O’Malley and Sanders, they challenged them.

          • Bobs_Vendetta

            To challenge someone is to call them to an exchange of views or ideas or to seek answers from them. In other words, a dialogue.
            No dialogue was possible when Black Lives Matter took over the forum. Indeed, no dialogue was sought. That qualifies as an attack.

          • The dialogue didn’t/doesn’t have to end there.

          • Bobs_Vendetta

            First, a dialogue has to begin. What happened at Netroots was in no way the beginning of a dialogue. Whenever Sanders or O’Malley tried to dialogue, they were shouted down. I saw no interest on the part of BLM to engaging in dialogue.

          • Given that Sanders has already modified his stump speech, I can’t agree with you on this at all.

          • Bobs_Vendetta

            I’m not saying this had no impact on Sanders. I am saying BLM has demonstrated no interest in dialogue or in being a part of the solution, as far as making the Sanders campaign more focused on issues of social justice or even helping them do so. I fully expect to see BLM disrupt another similar gathering or even a Sanders campaign event. But is anybody from BLM going to actually meet with the Sanders campaign? Unlike the stunts, that might actually be productive.

          • who is to say he wouldnt have modified his stump speech if BLM hadnt been so stupid in their tactics? maybe instead of a few lines in a speech and press release, if BLM were collaborative and conversing instead of shouting hashtag chants there would be actual people from BLM in meetings with the candidates, creating policy proposals and within the campaign structure. i have always been much more influential and effective by actually joining and consulting with candidates i want to help accomplish my missions than just demanding they shout a name on command. imagine how much the tenor would have changed if sanders responded to their call and response, and said her name, and then asked what, and then they had nothing more than another chant to yell? which is only 2 words away from what happened.

    • simpleanswers2articletitles

      Who is “we”? Is “we” you? Who gave you the right to speak for “we”? You sure ain’t speakin’ for the “me” part of “we.”

      And I know I ain’t the brightest bulb in the bank, but I’m still scratchin’ my head over “I have heard or read NOBODY who said the Black Lives Matter protestors should ‘know their place’ as you claim,” because after reading your post three times that sure as sh!t seems to me (not “us”) to be what you’re sayin’.

      • Bobs_Vendetta

        Nothing I said could reasonably be construed as suggesting Black Lives Matter protestors should “know their place.” To claim I was saying that is a damned insult. Is this how you engage in dialogue?

        • simpleanswers2articletitles

          Again, I believe you set yourself up not just as a judge, but as the only judge: “Nothing I said could reasonably be construed…” Therefore, anyone (not just me!) is thinking unreasonably if s/he finds ANYTHING in what you wrote suggesting that BLM protestors should ‘know their place.’ Wow. I hope you will go back and think more deeply about that in your own writing.

          I’m sorry you found what I wrote insulting.

          Maybe this gets to the heart of why BLM is resonating, in a marvelously “imperfect” way, and what it is like when underprivilege speaks to privilege. I personally think that is part of what Chris is getting at, as it relates to progressivism in our Democratic primary candidates.

  • stacyoh

    “and claiming a space for communicating when no space existed.” Weren’t both candidates supposed to meet BLM after the debate? After reading about the BLM movement, its funding and scandals involving paid protesters, I’m not sure what to think about it.

  • Kerry Reid

    I wonder if some of the same people on the left who have applauded Code Pink or others who have confronted PBO as “holding him accountable/holding his feet to the fire” now feel differently because an adored white politician is facing public pushback from black activists.

    • Bobs_Vendetta

      Obama faced backlash for things he did and things he said he would do but didn’t. A candidate for office cannot face a similar backlash because he isn’t yet in office. True, Sanders is a senator, but as a senator he has a 96% rating by the NAACP. You have a racial, if not racist, viewpoint of you think this is all about race — Obama black, okay for white to confront; Sanders white, not okay for black to confront — because your political calculus is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with this.

      • 7thangel

        man, miss me with that rating bs. he’s looking to be prez and they want to know wtf he plans on doing and what will he do to earn their vote and support.

      • Churchlady320

        He DID all the things everyone was screeching about. Bernie’s platform is about things this president has done or is doing. That is so lame, I can’t believe you said it.

        • dialogic

          Obama has done what? With all due respect you’ve got it backwards. FROM DAY ONE Obama has gone the opposite direction. Seriously, what planet are you living on? He put top wall street executives in his cabinet — every single economic post was filled by pro-corporate elites. Obama, however he was before 2008, has since winning the election surrounded himself with DLC democrats.
          Only very recently has Obama finally started to speak on these issue with some backbone.
          I’m sorry, it boggles my mind that you can suggest “with a straight face” that Obama has done these things. He most certainly HAS NOT.
          Let’s not confuse social progressive and economic progressive. Most who are one are also the other, but that is not always the case.
          Obama CAVED IN to the big money interests from day one. I will grant that he has been getting stabbed in the back incessantly by the republicans since the day he was inaugurated, Obama simply showed ZERO backbone and caved in.
          Most people want single payer health care. Obama took it off the table before the negotiation even started. He promised he would fight for at least the “public option” in the plan he was crafting. He pulled that off the table too BEFORE negotiations even started. Obama is bought and paid for by the same corrupt interests that have bought and paid for Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. The insurance companies. The big pharmaceutical companies. Wall Street. All of it. Those wall street bankers robbed the people of this country blind and THEN had the nerve to tell us that if we don’t bail them out the economy will fail. Obama was in a very very tight squeeze there is no doubt, but he caved and let the wolves into the hen house to organize things as they saw fit.
          He is the POTUS. Besides the power of executive action he has the largest microphone in the world — the bully pulpit. He should have been throwing those criminal bankers in JAIL. Untold BILLIONS stolen and not a single executive indicted.
          Whatever you think of President Obama, he has not presided as a liberal AT ALL on economic issues.
          Taking your words at face value, and assuming that you speak with honesty and goodness in your heart — I have to assume that you understand NOTHING about Bernie’s economic policies.

        • Bobs_Vendetta

          You said “Bernie’s platform is about things this president has done or is doing.” That is so ridiculously untrue it shows either (1) a total ignorance of what has happened durng this president’s adminisration, or (2) a willful and deliberate disregard of the facts, which usually indicates there is a political agenda hiding behind the deliberate disinformation. So are you a Hilary Clinton troll or do you simply, and with all due respect, not know what you are talking about?

  • LudicrousSextus

    So to recap, in liberal land – the notion that all lives matter is offensive.

    Go figure. Anyone heard any ‘black authorities’ comment about the number one cause of death for a black American man? Being killed by *another* black American man?

    Thought not. Hence we have as a national ‘racial adviser to the president’ a faux Reverend who started race riots in NYC killing just as many people as SC’s lunatic Roof did…

    Rather an incentive to kick out some T-shirts with Rev Al and Obama’s picture on them and ‘Black Lies Matter’ script…eh?

    • Bobs_Vendetta

      We don’t need any racist trolls here. Pease go to Worldnet Daily, or some such, to hang out with your fellow right-wing Neanderthals.

    • You’re disgusting.

    • I Am Sir Nose

      Yes, it is offensive because it is condescending and diminishes the importance and meaning of what the message is.
      Once again, another misinformed wannabe trotting out the same debunked talking point about “black on black” crime. This person is someone who was born behind the curve and has been losing ground ever since.

    • Herman Moore

      You know that most white murder victims are killed by their fellow white people, right? And you know that’s because most murder victims are killed by family members or acquaintances, right? Get a clue…

  • dialogic

    Like some others here, I’ve gotten caught up in an argument or two over the last couple of days.

    Speaking for myself, I’ve been aware of, and to the depths of my heart committed to social and economic justice my whole life. Perhaps in my case a bit more focused on economic justice because while I believe that both a) racism blocks our path to greater economic equality, and that b) economic inequality serves to lock institutional racism in place — my feeling is that economic inequality can be demolished more easily since much of it can be done directly by passing laws. In other words, we can just DECIDE to come together to vote for single payer health care, free tuition at public universities, higher minimum wage, massive federal jobs programs rebuilding infrastructure, etc. — and PRESTO, like magic, we would HAVE those things and all the benefits that would come along with them. Tackling racism on its own, and in isolation from the other connected ills would be a far more daunting and evasive target.

    That said, stepping in and preventing racist cops from murdering black people is not debatable — it is a moral imperative if ever there was one.

    I will posit the following:

    #1 Bernie Sanders has been MORE focused on economic justice than social justice his whole career.

    #2 While not his primary focus, Bernie Sanders HAS BEEN an advocate for, and a loyal supporter of social/racial justice his whole career.

    So, if I may, where do we go from here? I’m a white jewish guy from Brooklyn (for whatever it’s worth to know where I’m coming from). At the risk of jumping way out onto the branch in one leap, I would suggest that people remember that MLK was ALLOWED to speak about civil rights and racial equality and black lives and all the warm fuzzy stuff, I have a dream, etc. — for years — but that he was ASSASSINATED when he started taking a more militant tone — and SPECIFICALLY when he started to move in the direction of economic justice, solidarity among working class people and anti-imperialism. THAT is NOT a coincidence.

    It is neither the case that economic inequality nor racism is the root cause of the other. They each exist as distinct from the other. One could fairly say that if it weren’t for the cancer of racism in this country we would already have had a more progressive government and society in this country due to how many working class whites continue to prefer to fuck themselves and their families over rather than pitch in 5¢ to a collective enterprise with black people. However, one could also fairly say that the entire system of institutional racism was created — as a mechanism to placate poor whites by creating a permanent underclass beneath them — for the empowerment of those at the top of an oligarchical system.

    It will forever be to the shame of white society that they took such a devil’s bargain. We are dealing with the legacy of it to this day — and it seems black folks are still being gunned down and hung for sport. I don’t know what the solution is. Racist communities continue to vote into office racist mayors and judges and district attorneys and sheriffs, etc, who hire racist staff to serve under them. Institutional racism baked right into the structures and foundations of society. I’ll take this opportunity to make the cynical observation that most people don’t vote and that a lot of the above mentioned problem is exacerbated by that fact.

    So YES, Bernie needs to address these issue more directly. I think many will be surprised by the extent to which he does just that. He has been a largely unknown Senator from a small state, focused on his core issues (to the benefit of us all) and he is now running a serious campaign for POTUS.

    While he has lived in Vermont most of his adult life, the guy was born and bred in the Bronx. Redneck from Oklahoma he is not. Don’t get it so twisted you can’t even tell what you’re looking at.

    He’s not black. We’re all clear on that, right? You’ve got every right to get in his face and demand that he hears you. But you’d really have none to treat him like someone who isn’t a friend.

    People ask “what has he done for us lately?” Fair enough, but while perhaps not your bosom buddy, he HAS always been a friend and has certainly NEVER been your enemy.

    I think Hillary is going to keep slipping because she is just not real. I think we all agree that she is better than, god forbid, a republican, anyone of which has from a few to many white supremacists actively working for their campaigns to organize the knuckle-dragging bigot right wing. But does anyone REALLY believe a word that comes out of her mouth? Can anyone hear even the faintest hint of conviction when she speaks??

    It’s a great opportunity. Get in Bernie’s face if you feel you have to, but ALSO hear the man out. You might just discover the best friend you didn’t know you had.

  • Again – my thoughts/feelings align with yours exactly. Thank you so much for continuing the conversation.

  • so if sanders and Omalley went and crashed the other speakers shouting them down at Netroots, because their platform of values matters, would that have been “Mission accomplished” too?

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