There is a first time for everything. This is the first time I publish profanity. After reading “White Bernie Sanders supporters should talk less and listen more to BlackLivesMatter activists,” by Joshua Holland, I have something to say to him and all the others who, like him, presume to have the authority to tell the rest of us how to think and feel for ourselves. Before I start, I’ll note that it takes a special kind of chutzpah to call oneself a democrat and pull that kind of stunt…
Bernie Sanders has addressed African American social justice and economic issues during every single speech he’s given since starting his campaign, no matter the racial makeup of his audience or the location. He even devoted a rather significant portion of his speech to the Council of La Raza, a Hispanic organization, to African American social justice issues. Many of these occasions are documented here.
Bernie Sanders’ Netroots Nation appearance was disrupted on July 17th. He addressed racism in his appearance at a rally a couple of hours later, but none among those criticizing him bothered to note any of what he had to say. In fact, during the days following his ambush, he readily made statements, answered questions, and made adjustments in recognition of Black Lives Matter and in deference to a pain and urgency he’s had an awareness and affinity for his entire adult life. Sanders gave a major civil rights speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a sister organization to CORE, the civil rights group Sanders is a member of.
I found it fascinating that immediately after the disruption, we suddenly were being told , via Vox’ Dara Lind’s interview of comedian Roderick Morrow, that Bernie Sanders’ lifelong record was irrelevant, as was his association and involvement in the civil rights movement:
“Bernie Sanders, while he does have a good track record on race in the past, he’s kind of been avoiding talking about certain racial issues now. Whenever he’s asked a question, he goes into a spiel on economics — which is fine, obviously, people do want wage and class equality. But certain issues are race issues, and they do need to be talked about, at least from a candidate that I would like to vote for.”
Morrow very neatly and conveniently blocked off any discussion of fairness by starting out with a denial that one’s history is even relevant. Is that how Hillary Clinton’s own long record of racial inappropriateness gets a pass, by making past records irrelevant? We judge all politicians by the things they’ve done and causes they’ve taken up; very curiously, that is, until Bernie Sanders. Oh, and by the way, when portions of cities like Baltimore are compared to the poorest places in India, or we still have tenant farmers and share croppers in Mississippi, economics spiels are a vital part of the conversation, as is the dismantlement of the racist police state, which Bernie addressed, every speech he’s given.
What I found surprising then as I do now, is that we are expected to believe and accept on its face, or else be called racist, that is appropriate and proper to ambush someone, as a first step, when they have no prior record of inappropriate racial statements, without having attempted to make contact first.
The way I and, I submit, a vast number of my contemporaries were raised is to let a person know we have a grievance, ask questions and when either no answers are forthcoming or they are unsatisfactory, before escalating . You know, nicely and privately, just like Hillary Clinton was so lucky to be treated when she was approached this week in Boston. But even if mine and millions of people’s upbringing was all wrong and Sanders’ treatment was fair and appropriate, why then, as he immediately began to address the issues he was asked about, there was not a peep from the same vociferous gallery about anything he had to say?
Fast forwarding to Saturday, August 8th… Senator Sanders was again ambushed at a rally by BLM members. While there were news reports that the two women who took over were not actually with BLM, it subsequently transpired that they actually are. In an interview reported by The Raw Story, Marissa Janae Johnson said:
“Well, what would you say to the people who say that you’re hurting your cause?” White asked.
“I don’t give a fuck about the white gaze,” Johnson replied. “I don’t. I literally don’t.””
In answer to a question about Johnson’s religious views and previous support of Sarah Palin:
““Clearly that’s not where I am, because people leave high school and go to college and [change their views],” she explained, adding that she was a “devout evangelical Christian.”
“So, yes, I did run up there and confront Bernie Sanders because of my religious conviction, absolutely. Are they right-wing religious convictions? No.””
There was no follow-up question about the connection between Marissa Johnson’s religious views and Bernie Sanders. As someone who is half-Arab, half-Jew and who has been on the receiving end of both types of antisemitic slurs for most of my 52 years, I will tell you, quite bluntly, that I don’t need to be drawn a Venn diagram to guess what that connection might be. I suspect, in your heart of heart, most of you don’t need it, either.
Senator Sanders hired a press secretary, Symone Sanders on August 8. The very next day, the Senator issued the most far-reaching and comprehensive plan for racial justice any candidate for president has ever issued. To his great credit, activist Deray McKesson studied it and expressed his approval.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) August 10, 2015
Since the July 17th Netroots incident, Deray McKesson has consistently maintained fairness in his social commentary:
This is the first time I've ever heard a livestream of Bernie Sanders. I like the way he speaks.
— deray mckesson (@deray) July 31, 2015
At the same time, however, very little was reported of Sanders’ newly published platform in the mainstream media, with the nations’s paper of record, The New York Times, I kid you not, was even referring readers to the New York Observer for analysis and reporting on Sanders.
Meanwhile, over a ten day period, I reached out to a number of BLM activists and asked them to look at two posts I made on my blog. One, entitled “Some people have all the luck: escaping the wrath of BlackLivesMatter” contains a clip of all of Hillary Clinton’s not insignificant racial gaffes of the past seven years, and asks how she was able to avoid the treatment Sanders received when he has never come even close to Clinton’s level of racial insensitivity. The other post was simply a transcript and video of Sanders’ SCLC speech on July 26. I was repeatedly ignored, until one of the BLM leaders answered my queries on Twitter. She never answered my questions directly, instead, intimating that my motive is racist. When I interjected in an ongoing Twitter dialogue about Sanders’ proposal to make public college free for all not being a threat to African Americans and suggested that his views are compliant to the late Ronald Dworkin’s opinion on Affirmative Action, I was blocked.
That, to me, signified a complete and utter unwillingness to hear Sanders out from the outset, and not a genuine attempt to be heard. Many of those who are familiar with my work and advocacy have expressed, publicly, their frustration with progressives who keep pointing to the lack of parity in treatment going from candidate to candidate. Those same people have publicly said that they’re for truth and justice. To those people who’ve not once expressed, out loud and in public, one mention of the conspicuous lack of as forceful a demand for accountability and let events play out without question, here is proof that the treatment isn’t the same:
Hillary Clinton ended up being so lucky as to escape the wrath of Black Lives Matter. Mediaite published this article on August 11th:
BlackLivesMatter Protesters Blocked from Hillary Event, End Up Meeting with Her
by Josh Feldman | 6:52 pm, August 11th, 2015
Black Lives Matter Boston protesters targeted a Hillary Clinton event in New Hampshire today and ended up getting a closed-door meeting with the candidate herself.
The activists let it be known ahead of time they would be trying to disrupt the Clinton event, but were unable to get in the room (as opposed to how easy it was for protesters to hijack a Bernie Sandersrally just days ago).
Eventually, the BLM Boston protesters managed to get an audience with Clinton:
— BlackLivesMatterBOS (@BLM_Boston) August 11, 2015
Nick Merrill, Clinton's spokesman, now tells the pool that the #BlackLivesMatter protestors have asked media not be let into the meeting.
— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) August 11, 2015
#BLM activists said they "didn't want others recording [what] they said in conversation with Clinton, per campaign. (2/3)
— Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) August 11, 2015
Given that request, campaign wasn't going "to march a group of press in the room to record and video," says spox on #BLM. (3/3)
— Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) August 11, 2015
So, again, how is this equal and fair treatment? How is this making Hillary Clinton as accountable, publicly and transparently, as Bernie Sanders?
See how someone might smell a big fat rat?
Jeb Bush’ ambush on August 12 was far more polite than either of Sanders’:
Oh, and by the way, a disruption of Bush doesn’t make up for the kid glove handling of either Clinton, considering their long record on civil rights, incarceration and welfare. Of all the people who are running for office, the Clintons have yet to propose a comprehensive plan for racial justice and answer for all of the policies they put in place over the years. Mass-incarceration as we know it today started with Bill Clinton and only got worse after he left office. I, for one, want an explanation of his glib written remarks about “overshooting” on incarceration. Over a million incarcerated deserve something better. Bill Clinton’s 100,000 cops on the street is where Stop and Frisk got its start. I want some accounting for that, too. Oh, and before you say anything about Hillary not being responsible, we heard Bill tell us for eight years, as he was running for office, that we were getting Hillary as a two-fer.
What of Jim Webb, another of the Democratic candidates and an avowed defender of the confederate flag as our nation’s “Southern heritage?” When does he get his due?
How about Joe Biden, if he enters the race?
Which brings me back to Joshua Holland’s piece. It really sticks in my craw to be told by Holland to shut up and listen. As police brutality cases were mounting. As The New Jim Crow has been rising again, I’ve made it my business to use my voice and shout from the tallest rooftops, as loudly as I can. I’ve been there. I am there. I will continue to be there and contribute the way I know how. I will not be shouted down, suppressed, or shamed into submission.
Until such time as I am fully satisfied that the rat has been removed and caged, Joshua Holland:
Fuck. This. Shit.
To my friends and readers, this is a time for unity, not divisions. This is a time for cooperation. That is what I’ve devoted the last six years to, daily. I take this very personally. So, go ahead. Shut me out. Don’t work with me. Don’t converse with me. Please, just go ahead and block me.
Edited on 8/5: Title and picture changed at the request of a good friend.