by William Skink
You can’t talk about economic inequality without talking about race, but up until now that is what Bernie Sanders has been doing, and white progressives love him for it. What white progressives don’t love, apparently, is uppity black activists stealing the spotlight.
James Conner is especially incensed, once again referring to these disruptive blacks as thugs:
Black racist thugs from the Black Lives Matter group stormed the stage in Seattle today, shoving Bernie Sanders away from the microphone.
This has got to stop. Every time BLM’s shock troops storm a progressive stage without resistance, liberals and Democrats appear weak and irresolute — and the Republican nominee in 2016 gains more votes.
Charge these BLM thugs with assault, throw them in jail, and throw away the key.
Charge the organizers with stupidity and cowardice, and never let them near another political event. Instead of saying “okay, you’ve got a few minutes,” they should have said “take one step toward that stage and you’ll be frog-marched to the nearest jail.” The organizers had to have known from the Netroots debacle that BLM was there to grab headlines by disrupting the event.
Will black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton denounce BLM’s attitude and tactics? Or through their silence will they become silent accomplices in their thuggery?
Taking a slightly less niggers-should-know-their-place approach, here’s Dan Brooks at his Combat! blog reminding us that protests are, by nature, disruptive:
On Saturday, protestors aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement shut down a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think police violence against black people is a huge problem that the United States is, for the most part, still ignoring. I think activism—particularly activism by protest—is by definition disruptive and unpopular. You know what reduced institutional racism in Ferguson? Rioting in the streets. So you cannot criticize an act of protest for being inappropriate, because that’s the point. You can, however, criticize a protest for being ineffective, and I question whether Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford achieved what they wanted on Saturday.
If what they wanted was to stop the Bernie Sanders rally, mission accomplished. The Senator from Vermont had just started to address the crowd when Johnson and Willaford took the microphone and said, “If you do not listen, your event will be shut down.” When the audience started booing, Johnson accused them of “white supremacist liberalism.” Then the protestors called for four and a half minutes of silence to symbolize the four and a half hours Michael Brown lay dead on the streets of Ferguson. More booing. Johnson and Willaford would not let Sanders have the microphone, and eventually the event was canceled.
It’s not surprising Sanders has a racial blind-spot. Vermont is, after-all, 94% white and relatively well-educated. But Sanders isn’t running a state-wide campaign—he’s running for president, so ignoring the racial component of economic inequality isn’t a good idea.
The Sanders campaign has finally acknowledged this by formulating and releasing Sanders’ racial justice platform. That, I would say, is a big win for the Black Lives Matters movement. From the link:
The platform, which has won praise from several prominent voices in the Black Lives Matter movement, focuses on different forms of violence against people of color in the United States: physical violence from law enforcement and extremist vigilantes, the political violence of voter suppression, the legal violence of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, and the economic violence of crushing poverty. Sanders lays out several proposals to address 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 gutted protections in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Instead of getting all indignant, white progressives might want to remember that political movements are what produce political change in this country, and without these types of movements, white supremacist liberalism is what we get, like 16 destructive years of Clinton/Obama neoliberalism.
Black Lives Matter, as a movement, isn’t going away. Not when people of color disproportionately fill our prisons and are regularly being gunned down in American streets. Privileged white people simply don’t understand what it’s like growing up black or brown in America. We don’t fear for our life when we see sirens or experience the more subtle mechanisms of structural racism.
So a few thousand Sandernistas didn’t get to soak up the Bernie love in Seattle. Boo-hoo. Instead of angrily lashing out at these activists, white progressives might want to acknowledge that those activists actually accomplished something—they compelled Bernie Sanders to address their movement’s concerns with a policy platform.