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General News    H1'ed 8/10/15

What Black Lives Matter Stands to Gain from the Bernie Sanders Campaign - Shadowproof

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Black Lives Matter activists disrupted a rally organized in Seattle to celebrate the anniversary of Social Security. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was scheduled to speak, however, when it was his turn to deliver remarks, the activists took over the stage. Sanders left the rally and did not speak to attendees as planned.

In an evening rally in Seattle, the Sanders campaign seemed to go above and beyond to address issues, which are most important to Black Lives Matter. Sanders said it made "more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our kids than in jails and incarceration."

State Representative Luis Moscoso said, "Racial inequality is as serious as economic inequality. No one should be dehumanized by their race." State Senator Pramila Jayapal said Sanders knows "it is not enough just to say we care, it is not enough. What we have to do is call out personal, individual, and institutionalized racism at every opportunity." Then, Sanders revealed that he had hired a black woman, Symone Sanders, as his press secretary, and she spoke for ten minutes about the importance of shutting down the private prison industry and fighting the death penalty and mandatory minimum sentences.

The same night Black Lives Matter Seattle put out a press release declaring they had held Sanders "publicly accountable for his lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and his blatantly silencing response to the #SayHerName #IfIDieInPoliceCustody action that took place at [Netroots Nation] this year."

"The problem with Sanders, and with white Seattle progressives in general, is that they are utterly and totally useless (when not outright harmful) in terms of the fight for Black lives," Black Lives Matter Seattle asserted. "While we are drowning in their liberal rhetoric, we have yet to see them support Black grassroots movements or take on any measure of risk and responsibility for ending the tyranny of white supremacy in our country and in our city."

Hours after this act of protest, a "Racial Justice" platform was posted to Sanders' campaign website. It was framed around "four central types" of violence against black and brown Americans.

There are critical issues, which demand exploration: the intersection of electoral politics and movements, how a movement uses candidates' campaign events to gain greater visibility for the movement, the negative effect of identity politics, and to what extent this helps a movement build solidarity and form coalitions.

America's two-party system has a way of demobilizing citizens and strengthening the plutocrats or owners of this country. As historian Howard Zinn argued, "Government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies, and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war." Democracy requires direct action by citizens.

Before specifically addressing what happened with Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter on August 8, some points must be made.

There is a real problem when organizing is viewed through one's own identity instead of what it takes to collectively build solidarity against systems of racial oppression.

On white "ally-ship," Khury Petersen-Smith and Brian Bean wrote for Socialist Worker, "Our problem is with the one-sided focus on interpersonal dynamics that has a distorting effect on our understanding of racism and how to fight it. This makes it appear as though racism originates within white individuals. Without an acknowledgment of the historical and structural mechanisms that produce racism, political action and discussion can be reduced to confessing and talking about oneself."

In discussions of organizing, especially around the movement for black lives, there is a tendency to want to shame people who disagree when they express views or take positions perceived as ignorant or uninformed. That ignorance is often ascribed a level of malevolence, even if there is no proof that there is bad intent behind certain statements. Such calling out of people took place online immediately after the Black Lives Matter action on Saturday.

For Tiger Beatdown, Flavia Dzodan described this "call out culture."

[Call out culture] works more or less like this: I say something ignorant" Unbeknown to me, there are now ten posts in ten different blogs and social media platforms calling me a "BIGOT AND THE WORST PERSON EVER". Each time, every one of these posts escalating in rhetoric and volume. Each new post trying to outperform the previous one in outrage, in anger, in righteousness" The intent behind it, more often than not, is just to make the one initiating the call out feel good, more righteous, more indignant, a "better person".

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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