I follow Imani Gandy (@angryblacklady on Twitter) and she wrote this article about the fighting that is going on between Bernie Sanders supporters and the #blacklivesmatter movement. The entire article is something that should be read, especially by people who may have been taken aback by what happened at NetRoots. But I wanted to take a look at this one line from it, because understanding THIS is to understand why people are so angry at the response given by Sanders supporters.
” Most Black voters want the answer to one question: What is Sanders’ plan to address the police brutality crisis in the Black community?”
Every candidate should be asked that question. And every candidate should have a response other than all the things that they have done in the past. Because after all those things, we do have so much further to go. White candidates especially need to show that they acknowledge their privilege and display to minority voters how they intend to use that privilege to eliminate privilege and prevent actions like those that happened to the myriad of black lives (like Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, John Crawford, etc) that have been extinguished without penalty because of white supremacy. And they need to show that they have been paying attention and not be stupid like O’Malley and say “all lives matter” (since that is the hash tag used by racists to shut down conversation on the disproportionate wrongs happening to the black community).
I am white progressive. I believe the problems in our country wont be solved until white people stop looking at problems in the black community are things that happen to “them” and instead look at it as things that happen to “us”.
But I am not perfect. I know sometimes I get advocacy wrong. Many times people who label themselves as allies to the fight for equality will make a mistake in wording or in action. Should such a person be shouted down in the same way as a confederate flag waving racist apologist? Maybe, maybe not. Is it reasonable to suggest that someone who marched for civil rights might be more open to sit down and listen without having to be shouted down?
Perhaps. However, supporters of Sanders do themselves no favors by shutting down conversation with a “who else are you going to vote for?” response. Sanders SHOULD be expected to show that he will be an advocate for equality and the destruction of a system of oppression. And white people demanding that oppressed people behave in a way that white people deem “civil” is just a ridiculous display of privilege. And when an oppressed person shouts, those who are not oppressed should listen because there are very good reasons for oppressed people to be angry.
Perhaps white people would be better off asking what they can do to make oppressed people feel like those white people are open to sitting down and listening to the oppressed people and their needs. If people in non privileged classes felt that privileged people were listening to them, they wouldn’t feel the need to raise their voices at them. And instead of “demanding” that Sanders’ past makes him deserving of some sort of pass for mistakes made, perhaps all politicians should be proving what future actions they will take to prove they are the most deserving of their support.
To use a baseball analogy, it doesn’t matter that we all know the GOP will strike out when it comes to proving support for oppressed communities. The bases are loaded with important issues that are vital to black voters.We can only win by driving all the issues home. Bunting isn’t going to get you much crowd support. Go for the home run.