It is difficult for a person, or a movement for that matter, to have their voice heard when no-one cares about, or acknowledges, that what the person or movement has to say is relevant. That was likely what incited “activists” identifying with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, official representatives or not, to interrupt Senator Bernie Sanders at Netroots and a rally in Seattle Washington over the past couple of weeks. For the record, the BLM activists also interrupted Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley at Netroots, but it failed to garner the same outrageous reaction from progressives as when Senator Sanders was disrupted.
Obviously, the BLM-associated activists, like African Americans and people of color across the nation, are getting desperate to have their concerns addressed, or even taken seriously, or they would not have felt the need to disrupt a candidate reciting their “fire-em up” speeches. The good news for the BLM movement is that despite the “disgusting reaction” to activists interrupting the populist candidate Sanders, the “disruptions” achieved their desired results, albeit days later, and paid dividends because he came up with a new “racial justice platform” that won him praise from several prominent voices in, that’s right, the BLM movement.
As racial justice platforms go, even though it appears to have taken some pressure from desperate activists, it is beyond dispute that Senator Sanders hit a grand slam; it is no wonder he won praise. Besides a seriously comprehensive platform to address racial injustice, Senator Sanders hired a “young racial justice activist” as his national press secretary; another move that won him praise.
The platform is a multi-faceted approach to combat racial injustice that brilliantly focuses on the many, many forms of violence against people of color in America; physical violence from law enforcement and extremist vigilantes, political violence as a result of voter suppression, the legal violence of the absurd “War on Drugs” and mass incarceration, and Senator Sanders’ special target the “economic violence of crushing poverty.” About the only thing missing was the violence against minority children due to underfunding public schools, but platforms are created to be expanded on.
Senator Sanders did not just make a list to appease people of color or the BLM movement, he presented several proposals to address and combat each form of violence “from passing ‘ban the box’ laws to prevent hiring discrimination against people with criminal records, to outlawing for-profit prisons, to restoring the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” Addressing the economic violence of crushing poverty has been a primary component of Senator Sanders’ campaign long before he announced he was running for president.
Although Senator Sanders increased his bona fides with people of color, and the Black Lives Matter movement with his racial justice platform, he passed up two major opportunities to appeal to African Americans; especially at a rally in Seattle. Now, there have been several commentators on the left who have, very quietly, assailed Bernie for not seizing the opportunity and embracing the BLM movement when they “disrupted” his Seattle speech; they know the way to incite outrage from white progressives is questioning, or dog forbid, criticizing Senator Sanders.
Senator Sanders could have taken advantage of the situation in Seattle and told the organizers he would take a few minutes to at least give lip service to the same issues he found the time to address in his praiseworthy racial justice platform; but Bernie knows a thing or two about upsetting progressives waiting to hear a speech they have heard before. One staunch liberal summed up the sentiments of many Americans and said, “He was handed a major opportunity to appeal to Black people and encourage the white progressive crowd to at least listen to the activists’ concerns.” Another strong progressive said, “I have never been so disgusted as I am with the reaction to #BLM. Bernie had a chance after Netroots to do something simple – meet with (Black) people who are desperately trying to stay alive, form policies – not just posturing and hot air – and say how they will make changes that matter. O’Malley did that. Even Clinton did that.” The good news is that now, “even Senator Sanders did that.” But it was after activists, whether they were “official” BLM representatives or not, had to utilize what many liberals called “extremely rude and disrespectful” actions to get attention and action.
After the Seattle rally’s organizers cancelled the senator’s speech, Bernie Sanders said he was disappointed because he was invited by the organizers to give a speech about Social Security and Medicare. However, anything Bernie would have said about those subjects, or income inequality, or Citizens United, or Wall Street, or financial reform was not going to be a revelation to the audience; they have heard it all before. In fact, when Senator Sanders talks to all these record setting crowds he is, as many people acknowledge, simply “preaching to the choir;” a predominately white progressive choir. If the angry crowd felt they had been cheated when the rally’s organizers shut down Senator Sanders because addressing racial inequality was just too insignificant, any member of the crowd could have either recited, verbatim, from memory all of the senator’s talking points, or watched video-tape of Bernie talking about those issues at other rallies, or peruse PoliticusUSA archives and read about those subjects.
Republicans have already dismissed the necessity to address racial injustice as a political party, because the idea that Black Lives Matter is beyond the GOP’s scope of comprehension. It is why it is still a mystery that a significant number of progressives condemned the BLM movement for not approaching Republicans who are responsible for a significant, if not all, of the injustice against people of color to inspire them to action. Republicans just do not believe that Black lives matter and they are seemingly insulted at the idea of the movement. For example, presidential candidate Ben Carson called BLM a “silly movement” and warned Republicans to avoid being “caught up in political correctness.” Jeb Bush said Black activists were just being “uptight and so politically correct” for getting upset because Republicans “won’t affirm that Black Lives Matter.” Donald Trump said his solution to racial injustice is “giving the police more power,” and Scott Walker said the topic of racial injustice should be “avoided entirely” because “if anyone focuses on racial injustice and discord we’re just going to get more.” Of course Republicans are wrong, and it is why they will struggle to get even a small percentage of electoral support from people of color; particularly Black people of color.
It is likely that, in due time, Senator Sanders would have formulated and released a platform to address racial injustice, and it is also true that when he talks about income inequality he speaks to the plight of all Americans. However, all Americans are not being subjected to the many Republican forms of violence against people of color such as physical violence from law enforcement and extremist vigilantes, political violence as a result of voter suppression, or the legal violence of the “War on Drugs” and mass incarceration; those specifically target African Americans.
The good news, and it is really good news for Democrats, is that the three Democratic candidates for president are speaking in unison about racial injustice and whether white liberals like to admit it or not, people of color make up a very, very substantial number of the Democratic base and it is tragic that the only way they can get their voices heard is disrupting Democratic candidate’s speeches.