Another Sister Souljah Moment, Different Campaign [2nd Correction] | #BernieSanders & #CivilRights on Blog#42

2/13/2016 – This evolving story has been CORRECTED.

Sister Souljah is here again. What happened to Jesse Jackson in 1992 when the Clintons unleashed other Black public figures against him, is happening again. The unseen hand of the Clintons is at it again, through John Lewis, again. Watch:

When Reverend Jesse Jackson ran in 1988, Bernie Sanders was among the few who supported him and campaigned for him. John Lewis stood up for the Clintons back then in the “Sister Souljah” incident and did the same thing to Jackson:

“1. the emergence of regional and national black leaders other than Jesse Jackson with whom Clinton could form alliances. Men such as John Lewis, Maynard Jackson, Ron Brown, Vernon Jordan, Mike Espy, and Kurt Schmoke provided cover for Clinton when he rebuffed Jackson by attacking Sister Souljah and would not conside[r] Jackson for vice president. The emergence of these leaders corresponded with a growing concern in the black community about black-on-black violence. This allowed Clinton to make an appeal to “law and order” that blacks as well as whites could resonate to.”

This has special relevance today, at a time when civil rights, mass-incarceration instituted during the Clinton administration and the police brutality arising from it all are not only at the forefront of American consciousness today, but  probably the biggest bone of contention, one over which Hillary Clinton has resisted expressing any remorse when confronted by a representative of Black Lives Matter.

Again, at a low-point in a Clinton political campaign, Sister Souljah emerges. Coincidence? As I wrote in my piece on the influence of the Clintons on the mainstream media:

“There are very few coincidences in life. Seeing the top writers at practically every publication putting out hit pieces on the same topic, on the same day, is not coincidental. That, you can bet, is the unseen hand of Clinton’s campaign spin machine.”

Today’s press conference by John Lewis is the political equivalent, timed to punctuate the Black Congressional Caucus PAC’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton earlier in the morning, and in the aftermath of several Black public intellectuals’ endorsement of Sanders’ campaign.

As a reminder, and for whatever it’s worth, I am including here an account by veteran reporter Greg Palast of Bernie Sanders’ own longstanding 30-year relationship with the Congressional Black Caucus:

When Bernie Sanders was confronted by Black Lives Matter last summer, the loudest justification for the intervention was that his civil rights record doesn’t matter 50 years later. Apparently, whoever put John Lewis up to this wants to make absolutely certain it doesn’t.

So, if you’re not one to follow the crowd and the historical record matters to you, then here are a few pictures.

As the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart points out here, this photo of a young man standing at a sit-in is NOT Bernie Sanders. ** Please see my new and corrected story about these pictures.

Source: University of Chicago Law School

But this picture is Sanders.

A 20-year-old Bernie Sanders leads students in a multi-week sit-in to oppose segregation in off-campus housing owned by the University of Chicago.
A 20-year-old Bernie Sanders leads students in a multi-week sit-in to oppose segregation in off-campus housing owned by the University of Chicago.

And, of course, this was taken two years ago at MLK 50, and Sanders and his wife are pictured with Congressman John Lewis.

Source: Senator Sanders’ website Selma at 50


Has Sanders ever claimed to have lead the civil rights movement? No. Has he ever claimed to have been anything other than a student activist at the University of Chicago? No!

Does this make John Lewis any less the revered civil rights hero he is? No, and nor should it! What it does, however, is reaffirm Lewis is as human as the rest of us, with affections and loyalties.

Make no mistake, this is 1992 all over again. It was as ugly and sad then as it is now. Just as the spin was no reflection on Jesse Jackson in 1992, this iteration is no reflection on Bernie Sanders today.

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At the request of a reader, I am adding information about the cultural meaning behind “Sister Souljah” as a point of cultural reference:

From her Wikipedia entry:

“Sister Souljah was born in the Bronx, New York. She recounts in her memoir No Disrespect that she was born into poverty and raised on welfare for some years. At age 10, she moved with her family to the suburbs of Englewood, New Jersey, a suburb with a strong African American presence, a slight change from the big city feel of the Bronx. Englewood is also home to other famous black artists such as George Benson, Eddie Murphy, and Regina Belle. There she attended Dwight Morrow High School.

Souljah disliked what American students were being taught in school systems across the country. She felt that the school systems purposely left out the African origins of civilization. Also, she criticized the absence of a comprehensive curriculum of African American history, which she felt that all students, black and white, needed to learn and understand in order to be properly educated. She felt that she was being taught very little of her history, since the junior high school and high school left out Black History, art, and culture. “I supplemented my education in the White American school system by reading African history, which was intentionally left out of the curriculum of American students.” From 1978 to 1981 she attended Dwight Morrow High School, which had a relatively even distribution of black, Latino, and Jewish student enrollment and a majority-black administration during the time of her studies. She was a legislative intern in the House of Representatives. Souljah was also the recipient of several honors during her teenage years. She won the American Legion’s Constitutional Oratory Contest, a scholarship to attend Cornell University’s Advanced Summer Program.”

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