Are you confused about why Black Lives Matter targeted Bernie Sanders to share their message? Ever think black activists have forgotten the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?
You’re not the only one – lots of white folks who say they support black people share your confusion.
But lots of well-meaning white activists are also missing the mark in racial justice conversations, and they could be doing a lot more to give effective support. Here’s Marina Watanabe to help you avoid these mistakes and be a supportive ally to black justice movements.
The Editors at Everyday Feminism
Click for the Transcript
Marina: Oh, who is my 2016 presidential candidate of choice you might ask?
The progressive Jewish socialist who’s for universal healthcare, the redistribution of wealth, combating climate change, and making higher education free and available to everyone. You guessed it, Bernie Sanders.
Text: Feminist Fridays
Marina: Basically, I’m a big Bernie Sanders fan girl.
However, I also want to avoid putting him on a pedestal. He ain’t perfect, as the Black Lives Matter movement most recently reminded us.
(Got some fun lighting changes going on because the sun is going down as it tends to do at the end of the each day.)
So some of you might have heard about the Bernie Sanders rally that happened about two weeks ago I think in downtown Seattle. Basically, several members from the Seattle chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement stormed the stage and took the microphone and refuse to let Bernie speak, so they could share their message.
There’s been a lot of disagreements within black movements (because remember: black organizations are not monoliths) about whether or not the interruption of Bernie Sanders was a strategic move or if it was unfair to target him, seeing as he’s probably one of the most progressive candidates running in the 2016 election.
That’s totally fine and probably a good discussion to have, but unfortunately, white progressives and “allies” have been even more outspoken and critical about this interruption.
I’ve seen and read so many comments from white liberals, even from some of my own family members saying things like, “Wow, black people don’t know what’s in their best interest.” “Bernie Sanders is on their side. He marched with Martin Luther King back in the Civil Rights Movement.”
I mean that’s cool that he wasn’t a racist back in the day, but you need to continually show your support and dedication to solving racism. You don’t just get your anti-racist badge and you’re good to go for the rest of your life.
What’s frustrating about so many of these comments from white allies and even allies for people of color that aren’t specifically black is that there’s this weird sense of paternalism of – like “I know what’s best for you,” and black people are just being ignorant to what’s best for them.
Basically, I think this all comes down to respectability politics, which is the idea that if you’re not respectable enough or you don’t voice your opinion in a way that’s considered appropriate to the people in power, then you’re not worth supporting.
And at the end of the day, it’s not about whether or not white liberals like the way the black movements voiced their concerns to the racism that they experienced. The idea that the oppressed must conduct themselves in a way that their oppressors find appropriate and palatable is quite frankly bullshit and oppressive. White allies don’t get to decide how black people and people of color respond to the racism and violence that they experienced in their everyday lives.
True allies don’t offer support only on their terms. Real allies listen and understand and realized that it’s not their place to dictate how marginalize people react to their own marginalization. One thing that I find particularly annoying is that white allies will often point to Martin Luther King when they don’t like the way that black people are protesting racism, but without actually understanding what Martin Luther King was about.
There is a great quote from him that was mentioned in an article from Everyday Feminism which I’m going to link below because it was super useful and echoes many of the same sentiments that I also feel about this whole Bernie Sanders situation.
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride towards freedom is not the white citizen’s councilor or the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice. Who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice. Who constantly says I agree with you and the goal you seek but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action. Who paternalistically believes he can set the time table for another man’s freedom.”
There’s also an article I want to talk about from Mic.com entitled “I Am the Black Woman Who Interrupted the Netroots Presidential Town Hall, and This Is Why.” By the way, there was not just one interruption of Bernie Sanders while he was on stage, but two. Some of you also might have heard of this. It took place during a progressive conference called Netroots Nation on July 18th where another black organization called The Movement for Black Lives also organized a storming of the stage.
The microphone was taken by a woman named Tia Oso who uses us an opportunity to talk about the death of Sandra Bland and other black women who have died in police custody. I’m going to link this article as well because it’s a really interesting read. And it was actually written by Tia Oso herself where she describes her reasoning for taking the stage and why this movement in talking about police brutality and violence against black women and black people in general is so important to her.
Another thing that I think is really important as an ally is to make sure you don’t talk over the voices of oppressed people who face issues that you yourself don’t face. It’s important to bring attention to these issues, but it’s not your place to dominate the discussion and speak over other people.
And I know sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line. I get that. It’s confusing. But I think it’s important to remember that black people particularly marginalized black people like black women, LGBTQ folks, disabled and mentally ill people, these people are often silenced.
With that in mind, I’m going to end this video with some quotes from the article by Tia Oso that I think just really need hearing.
Sandra Bland and I had a lot in common. We were both black women, active in our communities and the Movement for Black Lives. I have also been harshly confronted by police during routine traffic stops and feared for my safety and my life. I was also determined that Bland’s death and name would not be ignored nor dismissed. Saturday’s action was powerful. Black organizers claimed our rightful place at the front of the progressive movement. Allies from Latino, Asian, LGBT and other communities stood in solidarity with us as we called the names of black women killed in police custody, expressed our heartbreaking requests to the community should we ourselves die in police custody and looked on as respected and revered progressive leaders were woefully unable to answer our reasonable question as to how they will lead America to a brighter future.”
Anyway, thank you for watching this video. If you enjoyed it, please give it a like and subscribe to this channel for more videos like this one. Also, this is completely voluntary, but if you’d like to help support this channel, then please consider donating to my Patreon page which will be linked below.
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- How the Interruption Of Bernie Sanders Exposed White Progressives’ White Supremacy
- You Say You Stand in Solidarity – But Do You Know What That Really Means?
Marina Watanabe is a Contributing Vlogger for Everyday Feminism and a vlogger, blogger, overenthusiastic tweeter, college student, and creator of embarrassing literary tees. Check out her Tumblr, or follow her on Twitter @marinashutup!