Open Letter To Bernie Sanders’ Supporters: Shut Up And Listen For Once

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[Op-Ed]

Dear Bernie Sanders supporters,

Shut up and listen for once. When Black women interrupt your candidate, don’t call them “thugs”;  and when protesters hijack your hero’s microphone to have their story heard, it doesn’t mean they’re paid provocateurs in some elaborate plot involving George Soros and Hillary Clinton.

You know who else propagates wild conspiracy theories about George Soros funding left-wing protesters? Glenn Beck and Allen West. So congratulations, White progressives – your fanaticism for Bernie has turned you into the thing you hate.

Bernie Sanders says the only thing that will guarantee his election is a “political revolution.” But when that revolution tried to speak, you suppressed it.

Unlike Occupy Wall Street, this movement wasn’t started by or largely made up of White progressives.

And unlike Occupy, this movement isn’t just about a higher minimum wage or free college education or single-payer healthcare. This movement was started by people who are fed up with watching their friends and family die in their streets, their homes, and their churches, at the hands of the very people charged with protecting them, and having to watch those people walk away from countless dead bodies without facing any consequences.

Black people are statistically four times more likely to die in police custody than Whites; and that’s something White progressives like you and me never have to worry about. We have the privilege of being able to talk about lofty policy goals that may be achieved at some point in our lifetime, and putting “all that racial stuff” on the back burner. Everyone who isn’t White doesn’t have that privilege.

Madison, Wisconsin, one of the most liberal cities in the nation, epitomizes White progressive America. The Wisconsin Uprising brought out almost 200,000 people in early 2011 to support worker’s rights even in the middle of a Midwestern winter. They also mobilized to elect Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. Senator. Madison’s mayor, Paul Soglin, used to be an ardent antiwar activist in the 1960s.

But Madison, just like America’s White progressive movement, is just as racist as it is liberal. Madison is the same place where unarmed 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was Black, was killed by White Madison police officer Matt Kenny, who didn’t face charges.

African-Americans are incarcerated at higher rates in Wisconsin (12.8 percent in 2013, second-place Oklahoma’s rate was 10 percent) than anywhere else in the country. Mayor Soglin has become a crusader for gentrifiers, proposing to buy $25,000 in bus tickets to push out the homeless population, and recently vetoing a proposal to make the homeless a protected class.

Just as Seattle’s mostly-White crowd of Bernie Sanders supporters was offended at being called White supremacists, anyone protesting Scott Walker at the Wisconsin state capitol or waving a rainbow flag on State Street would be deeply offended if they were told they were complicit supporters of institutional White supremacy.

And that’s precisely the problem with White progressives.

Do you wish the protesters would’ve stayed quiet? The Seattle Police Department has been under federal consent decree for the last three years after the U.S. Department of Justice found evidence of excessive use of force and discriminatory policing.

The people subjected to that excessive force don’t have any interest in staying quiet.

First published on NationofChange.org  

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