Monday, August 10, 2015

Bernie Sanders Can Do Better

First thing I want to do here is to tell my fellow white Bernie Sanders supporters to caaaaaaaaalllllllmmm dooooooowwwwwwwnnnnnnn. Take a deep breath, have a sit, drink some chamomile tea. 

It is 1000% amazing often people tell me that I'm too sensitive when any time anyone has even the smallest criticism for someone they support, they go fucking ballistic. Every criticism is called an "attack." I said I was disappointed in Bernie on Tumblr and people were acting like I had called for his head on a pike. Draw yourselves a warm bubble bath, people.

Now, before anyone jumps into my comments section to say that the Black Lives Matter people posted an apology about the actions of the two black women in Seattle who disrupted Bernie's speech on Social Security and/or said that those women do not represent them, this is untrue. If you actually look at the Black Lives Matter website and Facebook page, there is no such post. They actually posted on their main Facebook page that no such apology was issued anywhere, and the Seattle branch has expressed their support for those women. Moving on.


Yes, two black women took the stage as Bernie Sanders was beginning his speech at a rally for Social Security in Seattle (not to be confused with the main event at UW). They took the mic from him and demanded attention to the issue of police violence against black people and their general systemic oppression by our society. There are multiple accounts of what happened, some conflicting, but it's clear that people in the crowd booed these women and some yelled "all lives matter" and "Bernie matters." The latter pisses me off a lot because actually BERNIE KNOWS HE MATTERS. Obviously the guy matters, he has plenty of money and privilege and is the progressive media darling right now, you are completely missing the point of Black Lives Matter, you privileged fucks.

What followed was a bit chaotic with a lot of yelling.

Here's what CNN is saying about it:

Johnson and Willaford demanded -- and eventually won -- a four-and-a-half-minute-long moment of silence in honor of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a year ago on Sunday. 
Sanders stood just feet away off stage, chatting with his wife, Jane, and the three aides that came to Seattle with him. Sanders' aides said the senator had no plans of leaving during the protests, but once Johnson did not appear willing to give up the mic after the moment of silence, organizers effectively shut down the event.

Okay please tell me they don't mean he was chatting during the moment of silence. I hope not.

CNN then says that Bernie intended to stay and do his speech, which Bernie says was going to touch on violence against black people, but that the organizers of the event decided to shut everything down after the black women refused to give up the mic after the moment of silence. I think that's pretty fucked up. Sounds like "we so badly don't want to listen to you that we're just gonna pull the plug on everything, essentially making those women the bad guys.

And it worked. If you actually take a look at the BLM Facebook page right now, it's being flooded by white Bernie supporters (I saw them being called "BernBots" on Twitter, which I love and am now stealing) whining about how mean they're being to their favorite white guy.

Bernie's response was not terrible but not great. I guess if the organizers shut down the event then he might have had no choice but to leave, but I don't know. I feel like he could have stayed and spoken if he'd wanted to, unless they straight up cut off the mics. At least he could have spoken with the women who interrupted him. But I don't know exactly what happened, so I can't say for sure.

I take issue with some of the things Bernie said about the incident.

"But there are other issues as well that we have to talk about, and that is the fact that the middle class of this country is disappearing and most importantly, we don't bring change in this country... unless all people stand together. That is what we have to do."

First of all, Bernie, that's all you talk about. That's an exaggeration, of course, but seriously, that's his thing. He's spent plenty of time on income inequality but not much time on racial inequality. That's why BLM has a problem with you.

Second, the boring bit about "we have to stick together!" Translation: You have to not criticize me ever! Black people expecting more from you isn't "divisive," Bernie, and implying that it is is an age-old tactic for dodging responsibility for your shortcomings.

That brings me back to the BernBots. Yes, Bernie is good. Yes, Bernie is the best viable candidate for black people. They know that already. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to criticize him and demand the basic ally work all white people owe them. And what have we learned about ally work, hmmm? Could it be that it's essential that we not only listen to them, but give them a platform to be heard whenever possible?

And yes, Bernie did that. He gave them the mic and let them speak on the stage that had been reserved for him at that time. That was great.

Whining about it after the fact is not great. This is where the "keep your fucking mouth shut" part of being an ally comes in.

The most non-ally thing you can do right now is tell black people that they should have waited their turn to speak or that they shouldn't criticize (or in their words, every time, "attack") Bernie because he's on their side. I've seen a whole lot of that horrible, manipulative, abusive shit that is "be nice to the people who have privilege over you or we won't help you!"


One of the best things I learned from Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville is the idea of expecting more. Always expect more from people. Bernie is better than Republicans, yes, and better than any Democrat candidate so far, yes, but he can still do better. And it's not a negative thing! It's a compliment! I say he can do better because I believe he has the capacity to be an even better person he is now - more compassionate, more empathetic, a better ally. Isn't that nice?

I think that's much better than flipping out any time anyone criticizes Bernie like he's some delicate little flower or is a secret asshole who will take his ball and go home if we're too mean to him. Bernie can take it. Bernie can grow! In fact, he's already posted an online thing dedicated to the fight against the systematic murder of black people that BLM has applauded! 

But there are some other problems.

His official statement on the incident:

"I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me."

I don't blame anyone for feeling things, but Bernie needs to look at this another way. The key thing missing from this statement is that black people are disappointed that they're being murdered every day and that the only way to stop that shit is to give a platform to black people to speak about it. Which Bernie was given a very literal opportunity to do.

And again, yeah, you are probably the best candidate. BUT YOU CAN BE BETTER. Don't settle, Bernie.

And then, this is just confusing and terrible:

The Bernie Sanders campaign debuted a new plan to deal with Black Lives Matters protesters Sunday amid worries that the movement would try to break up another Sanders stop on his West Coast swing.
...
Symone Sanders told the crowd to cheer “We Stand Together” over and over if a disruption came in Portland, signaling that the campaign is preparing strategies to prevent Black Lives Matter from shutting it down again.

And I'm confused because Sanders is "a young, black, criminal justice advocate and supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement." You support them but you don't want them to be allowed to speak? You want to shut them down?

???

That didn't come from Bernie, of course. Symone is actually his new National Press Secretary, hired specifically to try and do better in terms of black lives. So, again, I'm confused.

All in all, I have high hopes that Bernie will continue to get better about this stuff. And at the same time, I have nothing but contempt for white BernBots who respond to any criticism of Bernie with whitesplaining at best and an assault on their movement's Facebook page at... well, at less good, because I know they can do worse. Just wait.

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