Saturday afternoon, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, was speaking at a rally in Seattle while he was interrupted by protesters representing Black Lives Matter. Rally organizers called for the protesters arrests while crowd members jarred and shouted profanities at the women who had taken the stage.
After reading an article on the rally in The Seattle Times, I made a rookie mistake: I read the comment section.
Amongst the non-descript and anonymous user names, a common theme began to emerge along the thread. Commenters argued that Black people where hurting their own cause by directing their attention towards Sanders.
User1029532 — Wait… is this for real? The best possible Democratic representative for people of color comes to town and people of color crash his event and make him look like a fool? Wow… how’s that gonna work in the long run for people of color?
Here’s a tip – If you are looking for support, don’t mess with guy who is most likely to have your back!
19491111 — The one person that was on their side, they do that too. I cannot believe that they did that to the one person that has been working for us for 30 years.
Martha J. — What a display of aggressive ignorance! Two uncouth yahoos disrupted a presentation by the one person who has been in their corner the longest. How very stupid they are.
If they had a brain, they would protest Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, or any of those Republican contenders on Fox the other night.
First, the belief that interrupted rallies will cause Sen. Sanders to turn away from racial equity issues is foolish. Additionally, if confrontations like this one cause him to no longer “have our backs”, that’s not the person I want in the White House anyway.
Secondly, these users, The Seattle Times, and many others have a clear misunderstanding of what Black Lives Matters is and what it means and represents. When we attempt to determine where Black Lives Matters is and is not appropriate, we are reinforcing the prevailing thought that Black lives come (at best) second to other, more important things, like political etiquette and party politics.
Black Lives Matters is not a bullet point on a candidate’s political agenda, it is not a talking point, and it is not a handful of policy promises. This movement, which sheds light on the devaluation of the bodies and lives of Black people, transcends politicians and the traditional political process. It is the manifestation of hurt and pain and hope. It neither looks for nor needs political allies.
Black America (especially young Black Americans) has learned a lot about politics and governance since 2008. We have learned not to be complacent with campaign promises. We have learned not to be pacified with good intentions and impressive records. We have learned that when we attempt to play by the rules, we always end up getting played. We have learned that it is better to be hated and heard than to be respectable and rejected. The racists and ignorant backlash President Obama faced (and continues to face) has taught us that the game of politics is rigged and to play fare is only to play dumb.
While I agree with much of Sen. Sander’s agenda and I applaud his career of civil rights activism, he is vying for a position in a government that has historically perpetrated horrific acts of violence and hatred toward Blacks in America. When these Black protestors interrupted Sander’s rally, it was not a display of ignorance, it was a demonstration of power. It was a statement directed not just towards social conservatives, but also towards “respectability-preaching” white liberals. Although I appreciate Sen. Sanders, he does not get a free pass. If he’s not careful, Bernie can get it too.