Ok, it’s been a LONG ASS TIME since I have posted anything on here, so of course I have to break my radio silence by posting something that will most likely make 75% of my readers hate me forever…but I don’t care so enjoy!
I will say, up front, that what I am writing is from my OWN perspective. I am not writing this as someone who thinks he understand “the black point of view” because A. I do not, and B. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A UNIFIED BLACK PERSPECTIVE ON ANYTHING, just like there is no unified woman, LGBTQ or even white male perspective. We are all shaped by our experiences to one degree or another, and no community is a monolith. That being said, let’s get into this thing:
I have been told by my liberal friends, liberal sparring partners, liberal family members etc etc that I MUST vote for and support Bernie Sanders for president of the US. The reasons why are myriad: he is the “only one” who gets “it” (whatever IT means), he is the only one who can beat Trump (I doubt Trump even makes it to the general, but I digress…), that he alone can bring about a “political revolution” in the U.S. just by being elected (didn’t we go through this before, in ’08?) and that not voting for him is tantamount to personally ushering a Republican into the Oval Office.
Enough is enough. I will vote for Bernie Sanders for one reason, and one reason only: he is not Trump, Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton. That is it. I am not impressed by Sanders having “marched w/ MLK”, especially not the way that this fact has been used by my fellows on the left to shame anyone, especially black folks, who DARE to question whether or not he is the best thing to happen to Civil Rights since the aforementioned Rev. Dr. King, Jr. Anyone can march, anyone can stage a sit in or hold a sign. Sanders is a well meaning, old, civil rights era liberal, he is not some sort of revolutionary racial savior. And to tell our fellow Americans, who happen to be black, that they should “know who their friends are” or “stop making trouble” is to show that we are still quite racist in our attitudes. Sanders boggled his first response to BLM, though he has engaged them since then, and he continues to put his foot in his mouth when it comes to issues of racial justice. Just the other day he said he did not believe that reparations for slavery was a viable option for making the US a more fair and just place because the issue would be “divisive” and have a hard time “getting through Congress”. As Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it in his piece analyzing this very issue (and which I link to at the bottom of this piece):
“The spectacle of a socialist candidate opposing reparations as “divisive” (there are few political labels more divisive in the minds of Americans than socialist) is only rivaled by the implausibility of Sanders posing as a pragmatist”. I find his sudden concern for Congressional feasibility rich given that most of his platform has no chance in hell of passing through anything less than a Democratic Super Majority in both Houses of Congress. Why is it that issues that matter the most to black people and that could have a real impact on the lives of black folks and strike a real blow against institutional racism are always considered “divisive” or “not proper” or “a non-starter”? Sanders seems to think that a blanket approach to economic injustice i.e. a few basic tweaks and overhauls to the economic and regulatory systems, would have in the end benefit all Americans, regardless of race. This, to put it politely, is complete and utter bullshit.
Again, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has showed, many times and in much more beautiful language than I can ever muster, that the best liberal programs in the world will do nothing to lessen the burden on African Americans if it is not coupled with an understanding that every system in the US is tainted, corrupted, by racism. Housing aid after WWII, Welfare Reform in the 90s, the New Deal in the 30s, all these things were meant to lift “the masses” out of poverty, but were designed, intentionally and not, to exclude or to marginalize black folks. Unless Sanders wakes up to the fact that you must first attack the ROOTS of racism in this country, inequality at ALL levels of civil society, then his policy pledges and kind words mean nothing. It also bothers me, as someone who has took the time to study and read up on the issues, that Sanders and his supporters INSIST that the Senator is a “democratic socialist”. This is not true. A democratic socialist would be in favor of the workers taking control of the means of production, abolishing wage labor, and allowing for direct democratic control over all aspects of the economy and government. I see nothing of the sort suggested by the Sanders camp. He pays lip service to true revolutionary ideas and to the radical streak in many young people, but he does not have policies to back up his very strong assertions. His platform does nothing to undermine capitalism, to attack the imperialist tendencies of our government systems, or to remove our military from the many bases we have all over the world imposing our will and whims on everyone else.
He is a New Deal/War On Poverty style liberal Democrat, which is, I admit, better than the Democrats have put forward for years, but a socialist this does not make. Do I think that Bernie Sanders is some sort of closet racist? Absolutely not. Do I think he is an old white man who thinks he has the answers to why black people are suffering? Abso-fucking-lutely. He is no different than many other “liberal white saviors” who seem to come and go with such frequency in American Democratic Party Politics. I even wrote about this issue once before on this blog
(“We White Liberals Need To Listen and Learn https://lennemi.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/bernie-sanders-the-next-white-liberal-savior/ )
So, to sum up, yes, I will be voting for Sanders, NO, I do not think he is the most “revolutionary political figure” in recent U.S. political history, and no, he is NOT a Democratic Socialist, or any kind of socialist. He is a white liberal Democrat from the east coast running for President, the same sort the Democrats have been putting forward for a generation or more. Nothing more, nothing less. And one more thing about those white liberal Bernie Sanders supports who like to lecture everyone about everything race, radicalism, or revolutionary: shut up, now. As my brilliantly political minded wife put it to me, they come off less like Che Guevara and more like Brian Griffin from Family Guy.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece on Sen. Sanders and Reparations: Why Precisely is Bernie Sanders Against Reparations?