4 Things Bernie STANDERS Need to Stop Saying to Black People

Breakout star Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont continues to draw large crowds and gain in national polls. The firebrand socialist taps into the undercurrent anti-establishment ethos that is becoming increasingly palpable as the populace grows disillusioned with the stoic and stubborn two-party system.

In much the same way that President Obama enthused an intersectional base of voters in 2008 by promising new direction wrapped in post-racialism, Bernie Sanders is stirring excitement within a predominately white base frustrated by exorbitant corporate influence, and wealth and income stagnation.

Elected to public office in 1981, Bernie Sanders is considered a political outsider. A registered Independent and self-described democratic socialist, Sanders attracts those rebellious white progressives and radicals that love hacky-sack and Bob Dylan.

Unlike the corporate feminists who cape for Hillary, his supporters are much more paternalistic and arrogant. Why? Because they think that their rebellious, anti-establishment views give them license to shit on everybody else. Especially Black people.

When my Sisters Mara and Marissa disrupted Sanders, his STANDERS came out in droves with their anti-Blackness and white saviorism. Hell, even before then, when a Black person dared to criticize Sanders for his inability to differentiate between systems that oppress based on race and class, STANDERS would come at us with some bullshit.

So this post is for the STANDERS that are hurting the candidate more than we are. The Black vote is up for grabs, and his supporters may be the reason why Black people don’t cast their ballot in his direction. So here’s some things that STANDERS should stop saying to Black people before we go off…


“Bernie Sanders is the best thing for Black people!”

No, he isn’t. Black people are the best thing for Black people. A political system — rooted in anti-Blackness and reliant upon cheap Black labor — will not save my People. This system benefits y’all. White privilege means the political system, no matter its flaws or corruption, will always work for the interest of white people.

It works best for rich white people, duh. But it also works for poor white people in ways it doesn’t for Black folk. That’s why y’all get the most in welfare and aren’t called lazy. Y’all are called “hardworking.” That’s why presidential contenders come stumping for y’all votes during election season (especially if y’all live in swing states), but relatively ignore Black people.

But now, both Bernie and Hillary are getting their racial justice platforms together. They can now say “Black Lives Matter” without cringing, and can articulate the underlying principles of this burgeoning grassroots movement. They ain’t doing so out of the goodness of their hearts — they’re doing so out of political expediency. They’re doing so because we demanded it.

So full stop with the “Bernie-is-best-for-you” bullshit. We’re best for us. Bernie won’t lead to our Liberation, although he *might* lend to it.


“Bernie Sanders organized with SNCC and marched with Dr. King”

That was over 50 years ago. A lot has happened to Black people since. The nascent of the prison industrial complex. The War on Drugs. The subsequent socioeconomic disparities between Black and white people that have resulted from those racist policies. Gentrification. The rollback of voting rights. To name a few.

Revisionist history limits the narrative of Black existence. American society mandates that we forget that segregation and Jim Crow was a short time ago, and ignore the lasting effects of historical racism. Society also has a sick need to lionize white people who fought racism back then, but lay dormant now.

Black people make up only 1% of Vermont’s population, but are sentenced at 12.5x the rates for whites. The Sentencing Project released a report that showed that Vermont has one of the highest Black to white incarceration ratios of any state in the country.

So marching back then is cool. But today … racism still exists. Aiyana Stanley-Jones wasn’t killed 50 years ago. Neither was Mya Hall, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sam Dubose, Mike Brown, and the hundreds of Black people who’ve been executed by domestic terrorism.


“The NAACP likes Bernie”

Y’all also seem to think that there’s only one Black voice, and the NAACP represents it. Yes, the NAACP has a commendable track record in racial justice issues, but they’ve had their missteps as well. (Rachel Dolezal anyone?) Its beginnings are also dubious.

No one organization represents all Black people, and to silence us by upholding your view of a good negro is paternalistic and anti-Black, no matter how well-intentioned. So chill.

“I no longer support BLM because y’all don’t support Bernie”

That’s okay…because we’re not fighting for your support. You ain’t that important. We’re fighting for our right to live without racist oppression. If you wanna help, cool. If not, then get the fuck out the way.

Politicians are supposed to be accountable to the public. They’re inherently imperfect because they rep an imperfect system. That means they must constantly be challenged and criticized. And constructive criticism doesn’t immediately mean you dislike a politico. Just their stance, inaction, or whatever one deems a flaw. If we continue treating politics as a popularity contest, then the system will continue to crumble.

*Featured Image Credit: www.theguardian.com

photo 1Arielle Newton, Founder/Editor-in-Chief. Get at me @arielle_newton. Get at us @BlkMillennials.

67 responses to “4 Things Bernie STANDERS Need to Stop Saying to Black People

  1. Thank you for this article. As one of the few black Vermonters, I can tell you that as much as I love Bernie, his absence in our struggles in his home state has been noticed. Your points are on-point and hint rather directly at what those of us in Vermont already know. I am, however, glad that he has actually taken a few steps toward BLM. I just hope that they aren’t for show.


    • Thank you for this article. As one of the few black Vermonters, I can tell you that as much as I love Bernie, his absence in our struggles in his home state has been noticed. Your points are on-point and hint rather directly at what those of us in Vermont already know. I am, however, glad that he has actually taken a few steps toward BLM. I just hope that they aren’t for show. And what you say about his supporters reflects my experience as a brown person in Vermont in general. Lots of “but we/he did this…how can you still be mad?” Makes it difficult to progress when folks are offended by our voices, let alone our requests.


  2. Interesting to get your perspective on this. As a white male I got the impression Bernie is doing a good job trying to get a discussion going on Black Lives Matter. I’m disappointed to read that his supporters seem to be hurting him on this topic.


  3. Thanks for the article. The whole Bernie is best for black people I think got started after a statement by Cornel West in support of Sanders. I say it because I think it illustrates some of what you illustrated in your point about his endorsement from the NAACP. Similar to that white liberals (like me) do in acting as if the NAACP or some other group represents all black people we look to Cornel West and even if we do not think he represents all African Americans we tend to invoke him as the anointed prophet of African American Intellectualism. White folks will talk about some statement made by an African American Community leader as if black people hold some election of public representatives and draw up a platform for them, I guess when the official coverage of the BEt awards is over. I’ve had a rough time through the housing crisis as have some family and others I know. Between foreclosure, job loss, reductions in social services, and the impact of assault and police mistreatment because of my sexual orientation I have felt my commitment to working toward a host of changes for our country with a new sense of urgency. So Sanders success aroused a hopefulness and a sense of having been heard and given a voice that I’ve needed. So when I heard about what happened in Phoenix and soon after in Portland involving scheduled Sanders speaking events and activists championing the cause of Black Lives Matters it was upsetting to see Sanders at best foundering response was disheartening. But before long I found myself responding defensively and got to know the shameful truth that I am not immune to the ugly sense of privilege that miss millie from “The Color Purple”, or for those as old as me or Sandy Duncan’s character in “Roots.” That cancerous bit the doctor never quite caught that supports and empowers because of the internalized lesson the false belief that the agenda belongs to me so I can give others space on it, the ball is mine so I can let others in the game and you only notice when you encounter something that makes you have the feeling you have when you want to take your ball and go home because the other kids aren’t playing the game right. But then I realized well wait do you object to the point they where making- no. So regardless of how he compares to other candidates do you think Sanders is perfect of issues of race and criminal justice reform, well, no. I get annoyed hearing about the number of black teens who don’t have jobs- it is a weird emphasis and makes me suspicious that it is somehow tied to a vision in which racial equality and opportunity for African Americans will be built on savings started at summer food services jobs, even before these demonstrations I have had that natural recoiling skin on my neck feel when I hear him invoke the legacy of Dr. King. So why when I see him confronted in a way that emerges from concerns and values I hold do I feel that hot defensiveness? After all I have talked to enough African American’s who are part of the Bernie camp to not have to let this grip me with dread. Furthermore I don’t feel hostile toward the protesters, I feel like I am in a fight but who is it I think is a threat? It’s other white people. It is white Hillary advocates. It is people I know who are well off and despite all their progressive talk buy into the individual agency and accountability myth that truly believes you are poor because you did something to deserve it. It is people delighting in the protest because of how it plays out as part of what seems like something more like a game than a deeply important struggle for one’s very livelihood and well being. I’m not able to say that this reflects where other ugly Sanders supporters are living and what they were feeling but it could be. That doesn’t make it right to vilify your sister in fact it would reveal a greater kind of injustice to the meanness directed toward her and her associate. But if it is reflective of what is at work for some or many other white Sanders supporters I hope we would all become more aware of what is pissing us off and who we are mad at and identify the ugly racism it exposes in our own radical pinko-commy- souls in time to not be even more asinine delight about each step Sanders and the campaign make to integrate the message of those protesters. Sorry for being so wordy and thanks again for what you wrote and the discussion you are making possible.


    • Very interesting comment. Perhaps another issue is the “there can be only one” syndrome. One group to speak for social justice, one intellectual, one staffer … There seems to always be a discomfort when Black people come together, on the job and in the public arena. This syndrome is reinforced by the media in every context. There were once many Black newspapers. TV has little to offer by way of diverse ideas. The Internet has provided this conversation. The fight is to enable more.


  4. why does it not matter what colour my eyes are when it allegedly makes all kinds of differences if my skin is white, pink, brown or black? When i open a bank account they only want to know how much i want to borrow, not weather i use factor 10 or 50 when i go in the sun……..


  5. I think the general problem with Bernie supporters, who see themselves as ultra-liberal, is that they think that their liberal views make them above privilege. It is extremely difficult for most white people to accept the notion of white privilege, so of course, we don’t want to admit that Bernie is a part of that system. Yes, he stands for bucking the system in many ways, but in no way has he bucked the system of white privilege, nor has he demonstrated he has the courage to do so. Do I still think he has more to offer than the other candidates? Yes. Does he disappoint me sometimes? Yes.

    I know white privilege to be true and accepting this truth, for me, was the first step towards being a BLM ally. Acknowledging your privilege doesn’t mean you have to like it or feel comfortable about it (actually, you shouldn’t!); it should be the knowledge that empowers change. Coming from a place of privilege changes the conversation, unless you work to listen.

    Though I am not a person of color, I am a member of a different minority community (disabled), and though the issues are different, I do know how much it can hurt to feel absent from or pushed out of a conversation. Thanks for your post.


  6. I adore Bernie. But you are right about his supporters jeopardizing his chances, and I fear that goes well beyond the black community.

    The point was made that all candidates have problematic supporters. True. But it’s different with Bernie because he is intentionally trying to run a populist movement on the strength of his supporters (rather than, for example, relying on TV ads or a well oiled campaign machine to turn supporters out at the polls). His supporters are a bigger part of his candidacy.

    I will say that Bernie and his campaign has to figure out how to reach out and include people who are not already among his supporters. There is a lot we can agree on and accomplish that crosses the various divisions (not only race) that we have in this country. It can’t be an exclusive club.

    It’s not surprising Bernie doesn’t have a track record with the black community since there basically isn’t one in Vermont (not in the sense of having a significant enough presence to have critical mass an institutions). That can be fixed and I hope it will be.


  7. I have never picture Bernie as president but someone Hillary could debate with until she is ready to debate with the republican. Also I seen this as a chance for Bernie to get his message out to people That he has been preaching for years and I think that is what he really want to
    He knows once he leave those two states he won’t have much chance of staying ahead of Hillary. I really think the media does a lot of injustice to all the candidates by having the polls results every others day. Twice a week should become more than enough to really encourage the people to think about the people they are listening to. Sometimes it seems you asking the same people over and over again just to get different rating.


  8. For sure, some of his supporters are seriously mannerless and ignorant of their own racial/ethnic privilege. But, to be fair to the man himself, he did respond promptly and appropriately after being challenged by Black Lives Matter. He issued out his own plans to reform our corrupt, racist criminal justice system. I just hope he can stop his more tone-deaf supporters from turning off African Americans (especially those of us down south).


  9. (I would especially appreciate the feedback of people who generally agree with the above article.)

    Let’s say Bernie’s platform does not adequately address systemic racism in this country (although I think that his racial justice platform is excellent and that it speaks to the quality of his character that he immediately released one after BLM interrupted his speeches; Hillary is a creature of political expediency, but Bernie is not). Does this mean he shouldn’t get votes from people of color? It seems to me that even if one is not satisfied with his positions on racial justice, one must at a minimum admit that his policies would have a significant positive impact on oppressed people in general, INCLUDING people of color. Doesn’t this in itself make him worthy of votes from people of all backgrounds? It seems to me that while he may not be THE PERFECT candidate, he could very well be the last presidential candidate who is willing to challenge the system in any way. We may not get another chance.

    I would also like to get all of your thoughts on Bernie’s recent discussion with Cornel West, Nina Turner, and Killer Mike (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hgnbholp7g). One of the important points raised during this discussion was that the powerful WANT us to remain divided by race. They WANT oppressed black people to defend only themselves, oppressed white people to defend only THEMselves, etc. The most powerful threat to the establishment is an alliance of communities. It seems to me that the attitude of some BLM activists, which in my opinion comes across as apathetic and even derisive toward any problems that aren’t specific to black Americans, works FOR the racist establishment in that it helps to keep black Americans relatively isolated from members of other oppressed groups. MLK Jr., Killer Mike, Cornel West, and other powerful voices for racial justice have repeatedly emphasized that people of ALL RACES are oppressed in America, and people of all races need to stand together in opposition to oppression. This does not mean we forget that oppression of black people is its own distinct injustice rooted in a distinct legacy of white supremacy, it simply means we do not intentionally disrupt lines of communication and fellowship between black Americans and other oppressed communities.

    To summarize: Working for liberation is a cooperative effort. It is NOT a competition.



  10. I would like to point out Bernie’s progressive stand on the issues that will affect ALL people (black and white) in a positive way:

    1. 15/hr minimum wage.
    2. Universal health care.
    3. Racial justice #BlackLivesMatter
    4. Free college education.
    5.Lower prescription drug prices.
    6. Creating decent paying jobs, not part-time minimum wage.

    You are voting for the candidate, not their supporters. Make a wise choice and vote for the person who is going to make positive changes in YOUR life. Bernie Sanders has the record to prove it unlike Donald Trump.
    Trump is a great businessman, after all he is a billionaire. But businessmen’s only interest is to make money and cut costs at the expense of people and their health (Flint, MI water supply was poisoned with lead because the Republican governor chose to save money even though he knew about the danger.)
    Learn how Bernie Sanders plans to pay for the programs that are going to better your life here: https://berniesanders.com/issues/how-bernie-pays-for-his-proposals/


  11. The STATE OF THE BLACK WORLD CONFERENCE IV says that there is a State of Emergency in Black America characterized by persistent joblessness, poverty, economic underdevelopment, inferior education, health disparities, crime, violence, murders/fratricide, police occupation and repression, racially-biased criminal justice policies, mass incarceration of Black people and gentrification. These crises are most severe in America’s “dark ghettos,” marginalized urban and suburban communities where Black working class and poor people struggle to subsist and strive against great odds to achieve a glimpse of the “the American dream.”

    The “White backlash” against the “progress” of the civil rights and social justice movements of the 60s, decades of blatant neglect,calculated defunding of social programs, massive disinvestment in urban America and deindustrialization have wreaked havoc on Black poor and working people confined to communities that have been marginalized. Rather than fulfill the vision of the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. King was articulating at the end of his life, the “promissory note” he spoke of at the March on Washington has continued to come back marked “insufficient funds.”

    Rather than finish the unfinished civil rights/human rights agenda, demagogic, right wing politicians fueled and played on White fears and resentment of “Black progress” to eliminate or drastically cut social programs perceived to be of benefit to Blacks. President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” that was waged almost exclusively in Black communities. President Reagan went even further by launching a not so subtle assault on policies and programs helpful to Black people. He charged that remedies for racial injustice like affirmative action constituted“reverse discrimination” or “Back racism” and shamelessly branded Black people as “welfare queens” and “food stamp cheats.” Reagan also associated crime with Black people and used this imagery to dramatically escalate the “War on Drugs.”This while continuing to dismantle social programs he claimed were a “burden on the backs of taxpayers.” Democrats were not immune from riding a racist conservative tide primarily aimed at rolling back Black progress to appease disgruntled Whites. Hence, William Jefferson Clinton, lauded by some Black people as “America’s first Black President,” pushed for an “end of welfare as we know it” and sponsored one of the most draconian crime bills ever; a bill which contributed significantly to the mass incarceration of Black people and the explosive growth of the prison-jail industrial complex.

    Rather than finish the unfinished civil rights/human rights agenda, demagogic politicians abandoned urban policy, ramped up the War on Drugs with all of its intrusive, oppressive, demeaning and damaging racially biased policing and criminal justice policies and practices. In a real sense, Ferguson and Baltimore, cities that have recently erupted in rebellion, epitomize the myriad crises that afflict America’s “dark ghettos.” The State of Emergency in Black America is a direct consequence of the calculated neglect and overt assault on Black people by actors functioning within a Capitalist system infected with white supremacy; a system in which Black lives do not matter!
    Join the Conference to be held November 16-20, 2016, in Newark, NJ.
    and change things.



  12. More white people collect but the population is much larger…. Percentage of Black’s collecting compared to their population is outrageous….. Need that broken down? May have 300 whites with 60 collecting… But if you have 150 Black’s with 100 collecting…. I mean come on don’t try to spin the numbers without factual basis. I don’t have numbers in front if me but the percentage of the black populations on welfare is almost double that of whites


  13. I read the article….It IS very correct in it’s assessment and I am GLAD that these points are being made. They are fighting to get these issues out in the open and it’s about time that they did come out into the open. I agree with the authour. This is an issue that has to be addressed in this election cycle and every single one until it is finally a NON-issue. Right On! #Blacklivesmatter


  14. thank you for this. I’m on the fence between Bernie and Hillary right now, though I know I will vote for whichever of them wins the nomination. But god, the rabid Bernie fans are going to be the death of his campaign, for these and so many other reasons. They seem to me to be like spoiled children, throwing tantrums whenever they don’t get their way. Hillary supporters can throw their share of dirt, but not like Bernie’s can-which is kind of ironic, considering his initial claims of wanting a clean, dignified campaign


    • It seems to me the “rabid” attitude from Bernie’s supporters comes from the inequality and injustice that abounds in the country, not only against blacks but the poor, the young, etc. I agree that if something doesn’t change soon in the political system, that political revolution Bernie and his supporters advocate through voting will be a totally different one –like the Arab Spring which started because of economic oppression.


      • I am keenly aware of the inequality and injustice of our system. Women as a general rule are just as discriminated against. Repressive Republican politicians stripping away our health care rights, inequality in the workplace, rape culture. Older Americans have it just as hard, with fewer job opportunities, pensions and Medicare stripped bare and SSI in danger of being privatized. Poverty has been my constant companion. Bernie’s “revolution” as you call it, is just more pie in the sky idealism that has no chance of going anywhere. Even if people stop stupidly voting against their own self interest and we end up with a more balanced Congress and Senate, it’s unlikely that his more extreme policies will stand much chance of going anywhere, effectively making him a lame duck for the next 4 years. Like it or not, change doesn’t happen overnight. In any case I will vote for whichever candidate wins the nomination for one simple reason-the idea that ANY of the GOP clowns becoming President terrifies me, and not voting because my candidate didn’t win only supports the Republican party. If either Sanders or Clinton supporters really believe in their principles, they will vote for whichever wins the nomination like responsible adults, and not hand the GOP the election. Otherwise, their revolutionary principles are just wind.


    • Imagine for one second that defeatist attitude had convinced William Lloyd Garrison who headed the Abolitionist movement to free slaves, Martin Luther King Jr. head of the civil rights movement, Susan B Anthony face of the women’s right to vote, and countless other progressives like Bernie, that not trying to change the status quo is better than trying to change it. Where would we be?


      • I don’t consider my attitude defeatist, and the two issues really don’t compare. Stop trying to make Bernie some kind of larger than life hero. He isn’t. He’s just a guy who’s idealism is great, but not terribly realistic. Even the democratic party doesn’t support him. It’s time to give up that ghost. Vote Democrat because we don’t need a Trump White House. If you think voting for the liberal or green candidate is a way of expressing your political distaste for the system, you are voting against all our best interests.


  15. Many of the authors all seem to be on target to get the Black vote by all, any, feel-good statements necessary for Bernie. I don’t trust a word written by the group of white males, aged 45 – up teamed to win the Black vote. Are they reps with Bernie, GOP, Rove, kkk, extremists, etc …


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