Froma Harrop: Bernie Sanders and racism lite
In a statement on the Nevada rampage by some of his supporters, Bernie Sanders said a remarkable thing. He said, “Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence.”
Who lives in “high-crime areas”? We all know the answer: dark people. But it wasn’t dark people hurling chairs and death threats at the Nevada Democratic Party convention. It was Sanders’ own white followers. (The YouTube videos make that clear.)
One reason there’s been no violence at Sanders’ rallies is that outsiders aren’t disrupting them. It is Sanders’ white posses that are invading the events of others, be it Democratic Party meetings or Donald Trump rallies.
Now, the Sanders statement did say, “I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.” But then he likened this outrage to shots being fired into his campaign office.
The problem with this attempt at symmetry is that we don’t know who fired into his campaign office. It is my hope that the perpetrator is caught and thrown in jail. But we know exactly who threw chairs. The FBI, meanwhile, should be hot on the tails of the creeps who made death threats against a Nevada Democratic Party official and her family. That’s a federal crime.
Sanders should have made his condemnation of violence short and sweet. In doing so, he could have emphasized that the vast majority of his supporters are good, nonviolent people.
But then he went on, stoking the self-pity that has permeated his campaign. This was not the time to go into his allegedly unfair treatment at the hands of Democratic officials as he’s been doing ad nauseam.
If Sanders’ tying of political violence to “high-crime areas” were his only racially tinged remark, one might give it a pass. But he has a history.
There was his infamous waving-of-the-hand dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s commanding Southern victories, which were powered by African-American voters.
“I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality,” he said.
Whose reality, one might ask. Actually, the overwhelmingly white electorates of Iowa and New Hampshire (where Sanders won big) got to go first. He didn’t have a problem with that.
This is a veiled racism that cannot find cover in Sanders’ staunch pro-civil rights record. Real black people seem to make Sanders uncomfortable (as Larry David captured on his “Saturday Night Live” skits).
Sanders’ idea of a black surrogate has been the academic Cornel West. West has called Barack Obama “a Rockefeller Republican in blackface” and “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs,” among other nasty things. Ordinary African-Americans tend to revere Obama, so where did this crashing insensitivity come from?
It may have come from decades of being holed up in the white radical-left universe. In the 1960s, Sanders abandoned the “high-crime areas” of Brooklyn, his childhood home, and repaired to the whitest state in the nation. (Vermont had become a safe haven for liberals leaving — the word then was “fleeing” — the cities.)
Nuance alert: Sanders has done good work in attracting more white working-class voters to the Democratic side. His emphasis on economic issues is a welcome change from the party’s frequent obsession with identity politics. That is admirable.
Less admirable are the windy justifiable-rage explanations in what should have been a simple censure. And to then link expectations of violence to “high-crime areas” was pretty disgraceful. There should be no white-privilege carve-out for thuggery.
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