Tell Bernie Sanders: Get Your Supporters Under Control
The following is a letter addressed to Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Dear Senator Sanders,
Much has been said about your recent altercations with Black Lives Matter-affiliated protesters. Prior to the one which occurred during the Netroots Nation conference this year, you had mainly been treating racial inequality as a consequence of economic inequality. To your credit, you changed your approach after the event and began to treat economic and racial injustice as "parallel problems," rather than a cause-and-effect scenario.
Prior to the disruption in Seattle, you still had yet to put out a comprehensive plan to address racial injustice. To your credit, you did, only hours after the event, signaling that it was probably already in the works.
To your credit, when one of the Black Lives Matter movement's most visible leaders, DeRay McKesson, praised your platform in a tweet and said he looked forward to hearing more specific proposals in certain areas, you replied to that tweet, saying you looked forward to working with him and others on these issues.
You have demonstrated firm steps in the right direction, including the hiring of Symone Sanders as your new press secretary. You've stated that your goal is to "bring people together" in order to stand for justice. This is of course a most noble goal. However, one massive obstacle stands in the way of this objective, and it is, most heartbreakingly, a large faction of your own supporters.
After your first altercation with Black Lives Matter activists at Netroots, this group of your supporters took to Twitter to harass and intimidate members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and unfortunately, while your activism in the civil rights movement in the 1960's was most noble and admirable, large numbers your supporters have abused it on Twitter in a massive harassment campaign against people of color, telling them that they'd vote for you if they were smart enough to know what was good for them, in a most patronizing and condescending tone. Despite the adjustments you made to your rhetoric, and, broadly speaking, to your approach to racial issues, many of your supporters continued to insist to people of color that nothing had even been wrong with your previous approach, and that the problems they [people of color] faced were rooted in economics, with a paternalistic implication that your supporters, who were in this instance white, knew more about institutional racism than those actually affected by it.
After your more recent encounter with Black Lives Matter protesters, that particular camp among your supporters once again took to Twitter to harass members of the BLM movement, across the board. Many of those in the movement who were impressed by your racial justice platform, and by the hiring of Symone Sanders, were repelled from joining your camp by the actions of those already in it. To quote Elon James White, the host of "This Week in Blackness," "every time he's pressured, Sanders moves closer to being the type of candidate I'd like to support. Then his supporters ruin it."
It should, of course, be noted, that not all of your supporters engage in this behavior, and many go to bat against it. The writer of this petition is an avid and unabashed supporter of yours. It is safe to say, in fact, that on various social media platforms, your supporters are in an open civil war of sorts.
The movements for economic and racial justice are two of the most energetic and promising places on the left at the moment. If an alliance between the two could be formed, it could create a formidable political force. Your campaign represents the perfect opportunity for such an alliance, and you have made clear your intention to build it. It cannot be done, however, unless you firmly and decisively tell your own supporters to end the harassment campaign against members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Those of us among your supporters who seek to combat this campaign cannot do it alone. Whatever they may think of you, many people of color are understandably unenthusiastic about the idea of coming aboard your camp as a result of the actions of many of those who are already in it.
While you have listened and responded to the concerns of people of color as a result of these events, large amounts of your supporters have not, and would be likeliest to do so if you yourself were to tell them to.
The actions of many of your supporters reflect badly on your candidacy, and do not reflect your own values. We hope to hear not only a denunciation of the attacks outlined in this letter, but an urging made by you to your white supporters, to support and stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, just as you do often urge men in your audiences to stand with women in the fight for pay equity.