Bernie on Race

January 7, 2016
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Everyone is familiar with Black Lives Matter and most people are aware that Bernie is a supporter of the movement. Bernie’s history with Black Lives Matter has been rocky at times, beginning with the campaign rally disrupted by Black Lives Matter demonstrators. In the blowback following that event, Bernie met with leaders of the movement to discuss the issues of greatest concern to black Americans. Since that meeting, Bernie has repeatedly given unapologetic support to their concerns. This has not been without criticism. During the first Democratic party debate, candidates were asked, “Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?” Sanders responded unequivocally, “black lives matter.” He continued with a strongly worded position that institutional racism needs to be addressed at all levels. His support received expected opposition from the usual suspects, with Donald Trump taking the all-too-common white position that those saying Black lives matter are ignoring all others.

I appreciate Bernie’s position. One hundred and fifty years after the end of the civil war, and we continue to be faced by the consequences of the moral train wreck that was slavery in America. When we ended slavery, we did not resolve all of our racial woes since rampant racism and discrimination followed in slavery’s wake. It was only fifty years ago – well within living memory – that Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, with further important civil rights legislation following in the years since. America has come a long way, but much work remains. In the 21st century, complacency is a major challenge for civil rights reforms. While many Americans are themselves outright racist or prejudiced, many more Americans are content to think past Civil Rights legislation has done its job, believing that racial disparity is mostly a thing of the past. Enter the Black Lives Matter movement, shining a spotlight on the real and ongoing issues faced by African Americans today.

Bernie has taken up their cause, continuing to voice his support for the movement as well as highlighting the memory of African Americans who have died at or through police hands. Following his meeting with the family of Sandra Bland, Bernie has regularly made a point of saying her name, letting her memory and her death serve as a beacon as to why this movement matters. He firmly opposes private, for-profit prisons, calling it “morally repugnant” that corporations are able to profit from incarceration. When prison becomes a bottom line on someone’s ledger, corporations and lobbyists have a financial interest in seeing people remain behind bars.

Bernie’s official position paper on racial justice outlines many key steps necessary to address systemic racism and discrimination that continue to exist in the United States, highlighting as “violence” the physical, political, legal, economic, and environmental issues facing African Americans today. Bernie believes in equal rights for all. He believes in being proactive in tackling issues which continue to undermine equal rights. He believes in taking steps to address the damage done by generations of horrific racist and discriminatory practices and policies.

Bernie matters because black lives matter and Bernie will champion the cause.