In #Decision2016, #BlackLivesMatter advanced African-Americans concerns, like anti-black racism in the criminal justice system, from the position of after-though to front and center.
I’m one of those young voters who favor Mr. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator in 1988 who, at a time when racism was as prevalent as it is today, endorsed Rev. Jesse Jackson for President and who himself is now campaigning for the presidency as a Democrat. I find the righteous indignation of Mr. Sanders, given the multitude of maladies in America’s society, appropriate and timely. And Mr. Sanders’ candor about the rigged economy and purchased elections only further suggests that he’s an authentic, activist-like voice amid the opposite. I don’t at all question his sincerity regarding the issues he gives voice to, but I do question why Mr. Sanders—who is now courting the black vote and touting his record in the civil rights movement, which included a 1963 arrest during a protest—had to be pushed by #BlackLivesMatter activists to acknowledge and address the unique problems facing African-Americans in this country.
When Mr. Sanders, who on Saturday lost the Nevada Democratic primary to Mrs. Hillary Clinton by roughly five percentage points, announced his intent to campaign for the presidency, he spoke about a myriad of issues, including climate change, which he views as the greatest threat to America. In Mr. Sanders’ own words, the major issue is “How do we create an economy that works for all our people, rather than a small number of billionaires?”
Missing entirely from the speech was any mentions of criminal justice reform, the militarization of police, institutional racism, systems of white supremacy, or improving police-community relations. Overlooking the previously stated issues at a time when the Department of Justice has come into several US cities to investigate police practices and issue recommendations and/or consent decrees is rather jarring, in my opinion.
But Mr. Sanders was not alone in the action of ignoring black America at the onset of his campaign. Mrs. Clinton, too, at the launch of her bid for the presidency didn’t speak to the issues of deep concern to black voters. Instead, she lamented on the economy, more specifically, trickle-down economics; she railed against the billionaires and corporations for making democracy exclusive to them; she characterized America’s political system as “paralyzed by gridlock”; she, too, mentioned climate change; and she acknowledged the discrimination that members of the LGBTQ face daily: Republicans have “turned their backs on gay people who love each other,” Mrs. Clinton said.
Her remarks, however, were void of any language referring to divisive policing practices, a broken criminal justice system, racial discrimination by employers or racial profiling by law enforcement.
The tone and rhetoric of both candidates are now miles away from where they started. Mr. Sanders often remarks about black youth being arrested and given a criminal record for small amounts of marijuana while the Wall Street executives who destroyed the economy were given a get-out-of-jail-free-card. He also said that Ms. Sandra Bland, a black woman who was arrested during a horrid traffic stop for not using turn signals and was found dead days later in her cell, would be alive today if she were a white woman. And a week ago, Mr. Sanders stated that in many minority communities, the police resemble occupying armies.
“We have got to demilitarize local police departments,” Mr. Sanders said last Tuesday, during a speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
And Mrs. Clinton, who was also challenged by #BlackLivesMatter activists to develop a criminal justice platform that was true to the issues, has begun saying that there’s systemic racism in our criminal justice system and, after her October 2015 meeting with the anti-black racism activists, Mrs. Clinton tweeted: “Racism is America’s first sin.” In January of this year, Mrs. Clinton during a Democratic debate said the following:
“There needs to be a concerted effort to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system. That requires a very clear agenda for retraining police officers, looking at ways to end racial profiling, and finding more ways to really bring the disparities that stalk our country into high relief.”
Each Democratic presidential candidate, both touting endorsements from loved ones killed by police violence—Mrs. Clinton has the support of Ms. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Mr. Trayvon Martin and Mr. Sanders has the backing of Ms. Erica Garner, the daughter of Mr. Eric Garner—appear to have been fully impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement.
There were talks early on as to how, or if, #BlackLivesMatter would assert themselves into #Decision2016. Would they endorse a candidate? Sponsor a debate? Continuously interrupt events? Well, we have our answer: #BlackLivesMatter, as a national movement, advanced black America’s concerns from the position of after-though to front and center, where it deserves to be.
CLICK HERE to listen to ‘Why the Black Vote Matters,’ a podcast from The Dr. Vibe Show featuring a panel of black male thought-leaders, including the co-founder of the ‘Vote or Die’ movement.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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