I wrote this message to a supporter of Senator Sander’s Presidential Campaign, but it really was directed at his supporters as a group:
Now, I am Ideologically similar to Bernie as far as my politics go, although I find myself putting a bit more emphasis on the social justice aspect, rather than the economical. I see you as an ally in the fight for Black lives matters and appreciate that and hope that everyone can join us in our fight. You are on my side in my fight for justice, and I am on your side in your fight for economic fairness.
I do not hate Bernie or his supporters. I actually prefer Bernie and do not like Hillary. If I say things about what I think is hurting him with black voters, it is not because I want to trash him or you guys, I want you to know what I see and really am trying to help.
I want Bernie’s supporters to include things that are important to black voters and place them at the top of the list of urgent business. I truly believe that the group that wins the support of black activists in movements like Black Lives Matters will win the black vote. And similarly with Latinos, the person and supporters that show the most concern, listen to hispanics in our nation and empathizes and places their concerns at the top along with economic and social justice will win their respect and votes. Minority communities are big on respect and appreciate attention paid to the issues that affect our communities specifically. We also want our vote earned and for the candidates to come to us and ask for our votes.
Bernie and his group have to spread goodwill throughout the Obama coalition. They need to steal Hillary voters. I fear that the active dislike for the man that many African Americans respect and love (honestly, we place him at the top of the list of All Time Greatest African Americans, above Martin Luther King Jr and MalcolmX, he to us is the all time greatest African American) is harming Bernie tremendously. We have an emotional connection to him, no amount of logic and policy discussions will change that. We do not like people who do not appreciate him and his accomplishments.
I say these things not to harn; but to assist. When I speak with other African Americans about the policy issues and differences between the candidates, they seem to actually PREFER Bernie’s positions. But there is a lack of trust, and we find it difficult to get interested in a new (to us) candidate. We know the Clintons. We know they made terrible decisions. But when supporters beat us up with those facts, it shuts down the conversation and everyone retreats to their previously held positions. The Clintons are our default choice. The Clintons are praising Obama and that brings them enough goodwill to assuage the fears of another Welfare Reform debacle or Mass Incarceration mess. The Clintons are busy speaking on our issues and apologizing for past mistakes. I know that does not make up for the past, but when has America EVER made up for things done to black people? Never. An apology for hurting us is so damn rare that we forgive.
Now, I think we can get through this netroots debacle, but Bernie’s supporters HAVE to listen to the members of the African American community and bite their tongues and figure out how to use the information we provide effectively. Life is a learning experience.
I have a few suggestions: in order to steal votes Bernie needs Obma voters. Please let people know that it is very counterproductive to trash Obama in any way really. We are so used to black leaders being trashed and hated and despised that we as a group will tune out any bad mouthing and silently hate the person speaking. It really doesn’t matter if it is just about SEVERE disappointment with his policies or seeing him as too far to the right; it turns off potential black voters. Speak instead on how Bernie will defend the gains Obama made and expand upon them. It will be more effective.
Another thing is you all need to know that Black people LIKE the Clintons. Yes, they fucked up. But it seems that we are forgiving them and waiting to hear more about how Hillary will undo some of the policies and ensure that we work on the insititutional racism. Many are willing to give them a chance to fix things. It does not help Bernie AT ALL when folks talk crazy to black folks about liking the Clintons after all the damage they have done. It might help you to see this as a sign that black people can be willing to give multiple chances. This bad time with minority voters can be fixed.
I’d also suggest that his supporters might want to stop saying that economic justice and social justice are the same thing or that one brings the other. And maybe stop calling non Bernie supporters uninformed or implying that they are stupid or Hillary supporters. I get accused of supporting Hillary because I am saying these things to and about Bernie supporters. I understand that I have been a bit unkind by broadbrushing his supporters and I am sorry. I apologize for that and will try to do better. I just do not like my concern dismissed or my community or activists being disrespected or called right wing plants.
There is nothing wrong with being excited for a candidate. Or being an idealist. But it is not a winning strategy on it’s own. Votes are needed to win. Bernie has the leftish progressive white liberals on his side and he has their support. He NEEDS more. Compromises will have to be made and tongues will have to be bitten to win the hearts and minds of the rest of the Democratic coalition.
Sorry about the super long post, but I just wanted to get that out there and see if anybody would take what I say seriously and help end this meme with the quickness. I do not like Bernie’s supporters having the reputation of being mean, or intelligence snobs or hating black people. The only way to turn the tide is to change course. If you guys could collectively just be nice to black people and listen to us and support us in this fight for our lives and freedom; fight just as hard as you fight FOR Bernie, this problem would be a thing of the past.