Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bernie Sanders and BLM

After last weekend's Netroots Nation intervention of Black Lives Matter activists during speeches by Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders, there was, it seems, a veritable onslaught of anti-Bernie stuff in the Twitter-verse, and ongoing argument, still, at some political websites.

A 20 minute video of the full segment of Senator Sanders' contribution at Netroots Nation is at the end of this post.

I, as no regular reader will be surprised to read, agreed with Bernie Sanders' responses. Some could have been made in better tone, and with a few additional points more relative to what the BLM people were shouting about. A little less discourtesy on their part and a little more tolerance on his part wouldn't have gone amiss. Still, he made the point that the issues he was speaking about: income inequality, inequality of opportunity, low wages etc. were at the root of much that is causing the wrongs felt by the African American population now.

Senator Sanders was, to my mind, taking what medical people might describe as an holistic approach - looking at the whole body of the USA, not a single symptom. In medicine this can be good or not so good, depending on circumstance. Treating a specific symptom is good, but ignoring underlying, and very serious conditions which are creating the situation is unwise and sometimes even fatal.

Police violence on African Americans is a very obvious wrong. Senator Sanders knows that it is a wrong powered by deeper factors, and unless those are dealt with there'll be no justice.

BLM activists made their point, I guess. It's odd, though, that they felt the need to make it in the place and at the time they did. I wonder from whom that idea originated? Sanders and O'Malley did show up to speak at Netroots Nation. Would it not have been more reasonable to direct some of the BLM's shoutings towards Hillary and the Republicans for not even bothering to attend, or maybe go to campaign speeches by Republicans such as Scott Walker, and try for a disruption there?

Throughout his career Bernie Sanders has been avidly pro-civil rights, that is a starting point from which to decide his attitudes. He is calling for controls on the police, the dismantling of the prison systems, full employment, free education....yet BLM, and countless on-line commenters choose to go after this candidate, attempting to discredit him?!

I feel certain that Senator Sanders' mis-step on Sunday, if it can be called that, as well as any hint of unpreparedness for hecklers, will be put right. He is a shrewd and experienced politician who has campaigned for mayoral and senate positions more than once during his long life. Yet he has never campaigned for the presidency of the USA. That has to be something entirely different, and something for which there is no possible preparation other than actually "doing it". It's a good thing Bernie began campaigning early, he has time to polish his game, and so have his advisers.

UPDATE: Sanders Calls Violent Arrest of Sandra Bland 'Totally Outrageous Police Behavior'....Recently challenged to address issues of racial injustice and police brutality more forcefully, Sanders does just that.


mike said...

This comment is a top-pick on Reddit:

"Imagine that you're sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don't get any. So you say 'I should get my fair share.' And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, 'everyone should get their fair share.' Now, that's a wonderful sentiment -- indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad's smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn't solve the problem that you still haven't gotten any!

The problem is that the statement 'I should get my fair share' had an implicit 'too' at the end: 'I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.' But your dad's response treated your statement as though you meant 'only I should get my fair share', which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that 'everyone should get their fair share,' while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That's the situation of the 'black lives matter' movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn't work the way. You see the film Nightcrawler? You know the part where Renee Russo tells Jake Gyllenhal that she doesn't want footage of a black or latino person dying, she wants news stories about affluent white people being killed? That's not made up out of whole cloth -- there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it's generally not considered 'news', while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate -- young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don't treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don't pay as much attention to certain people's deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don't treat all lives as though they matter equally.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase 'black lives matter' also has an implicit 'too' at the end: it's saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying 'all lives matter' is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It's a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means 'only black lives matter,' when that is obviously not the case. And so saying all lives matter' as a direct response to 'black lives matter' is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.

TL;DR: The phrase 'Black lives matter' carries an implicit 'too' at the end; it's saying that black lives should also matter. Saying 'all lives matter' is dismissing the very problems that the phrase is trying to draw attention to."

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for this. I do get it, and so does Senator Sanders. He's putting things right now - and next time something similar occurs, I'd bet he'll be better prepared.

mike (again) said...

Regarding Bernie's battering, I'm never sure about hecklers and nasty commenters. Certainly some are real, but part of the modern landscape is the ability to cause confusion and harm instantaneously, en mass, and anonymously, as well as to provide a militant ambush from the opposition denigrating the opponent of choice.

Donald Trump's recent take-down of McCain is reminiscent of the attack on Kerry's Vietnam military record in 2004 by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Swift Boat discredited Kerry and maligned him with lies, but it was essentially a successful take-down of Kerry.

We humans are gullible and easily led astray should some person or group desire to make false allegations. Verification of facts is a moot point anymore.

I think I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that one of my neighbors was convinced Freddy Gray was guilty of a crime and therefore a criminal, which is why he ran from the Baltimore police. I told her that Gray was confirmed innocent, to which she asked whether I believed everything I read or viewed on the news. I told her I'd prefer the news over her source of information: Facebook and Twitter. She became very angry with my response!

mike (again) said...

This is an aside to your post, but I noticed that you use the term African-American. That designation isn't inclusive of Haitians, Jamaicans, Aboriginals, et al. There are many blacks that do not originate from African nations:

This is a bit sticky, but I use the term "black"...negroid is essentially the same, but sounds slightly offensive and outdated. I'm not sure what the preferred politically correct term is for 2015...LOL.

mike (again) said...

Additional to last comment:
"The Taíno were an Arawak people who were indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. At the time of European contact in the late 15th century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (presently Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and Puerto Rico in the Greater Antilles, the northern Lesser Antilles, and the Bahamas, where they were known as the Lucayans. They spoke the Taíno language, one of the Arawakan languages.

The ancestors of the Taíno entered the Caribbean from South America. At the time of contact, the Taíno were divided into three broad groups, known as the Western Taíno (Jamaica, most of Cuba, and the Bahamas), the Classic Taíno (Hispaniola and Puerto Rico) and the Eastern Taíno (northern Lesser Antilles). Taíno groups were in conflict with the Caribs of the southern Lesser Antilles."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ #1 There's so much subterfuge going on - I agree, and it mushrooms around election times. 'Believe half you see and none of what you hear' - isn't that the saying? :-) Some commentary, even outside of Twitter/Facebook is, for sure, suspect. I stopped watching TV news and political shows long ago - now I feel like stopping reading on political matters online as well - but then I might as well be a hermit! We gotta get our inner antennae firing on all cylinders, I guess.

#2 - Re African American and "black" - sorry for my error - I get the feeling that "black" unless spoken by a black person sounds rude or insensitive, but there's nothing else to describe those from other lands than America, unless one knows from whence the person/people originate. "People of colour" sounds horribly condescending. I think I'll begin writing "African American/black" in future to cover all bases - but it feels a bit like PC gone mad!

LB said...

I'm not aware of *any* presidential candidate (other than Jill Stein, who btw, I don't agree with on every issue) having taken on the problem of prison labor (the Prison Industrial Complex). At least not in a proactive and comprehensive way meant to expose some of the underlying reasons (money, profit) our government might have in continuing to unjustly imprison politically powerless people, often (though not exclusively) brown and black skinned ones, for non-violent, drug-related crimes:

I read an interview where in response to a question asked on this same subject, Bernie responded by saying,

"So it seems to me that rather than spending huge amounts of money on jails and on private corporations who are incentivized to keep people in jail, it might make a lot more sense to spend money on job training and education so that people do not end up in jail in the first place. And yes I'm certainly in favor of comprehensive education reform."

Of course jobs and education are good things ~ who could argue with that? But his answer also seems to *carefully avoid* addressing the separate but connected (MAJOR) issue of prison labor for profit.

Twilight said...

LB ~ There are dozens of issues for candidates to be questioned on. Most will not cover all bases every time at this stage. I'd want to hear Bernie expand on what his position is at length, a good interviewer would pressure him further. In interviews at this early stage in the race they all tend to give brief answers because time allowed is limited.

LB said...

Maybe, Twilight. Even with time constraints, I still think when we're passionate about an issue, we're more likely to seize any opportunity, no matter how brief, to discuss and draw attention to it.

In this case I think it's important to pay attention to Bernie's choice of words and what he *didn't* say.

Here's a Youtube clip of Bernie addressing the President (???), where he says much the same thing, about the need for education and job creation and also, about the expense of maintaining our prison system ~ NOTHING about the Prison Industrial Complex and those who profit from mass incarceration:

mike (again) said...

LB - "That success has provided him a growing megaphone to reach audiences with his political messages critical of corporate capitalism, the prison industrial complex and a democratic system that shuts out large swathes of the population—all issues that Bernie Sanders has been vocal on throughout his political career."

"Bernie Sanders Intends to Strike at Heart of Prison Industrial Complex"
"... So it seems to me that rather than spending huge amounts of money on jails and on private corporations who are incentivized to keep people in jail, it might make a lot more sense to spend money on job training and education so that people do not end up in jail in the first place." Bernie Sanders

LB, here is a petition for exactly what you describe. Note that it is specifically addressed to Warren, Sanders, and Obama. Apparently, the originator of this petition believes that Warren & Sanders are more likely than any of the other congressional members to take action on this issue.

"End Prison-For-Profit System of Oppression"

Letter to
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Senate
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Senator Bernie Sanders
President of the United States
End Prison-For-Profit System of Oppression.

Twilight said...

LB ~ I suspect you're being too demanding, too soon. I'm more than willing to give the guy a chance. To my mind he's the best bet - the least likely to lie to us, the most likely to get the ball of change rolling - however slowly, and however incompletely. If change is our goal, we have to begin somewhere, and no other candidate is more likely to attempt to get it started than Bernie Sanders.

As he has said many times, what's truly needed is a grassroots movement. Without that kind of support no president will be able to effect the change away from corporatism, oligarchy, and put more power back into the people's hands. But it'll take a pulling together of all left/Dem. factions, and a willingness to consider some individual desires as secondary for a time, in order to get to the point where they can be dealt with. (It's been said many times that trying to get the left to agree and act as one is like herding cats).

LB said...

I don't disagree with you, Twilight. Considering the game and how it's played, I can see why Bernie might seem like the best candidate.

The truth is, there isn't anyone running I'd want to be president (not anyone I'm aware of anyway) ~ which doesn't mean I don't care.

LB (again) said...

Adding how when I referred to "the game and how it's played", I meant that our system is corrupt, decayed, our thinking sometimes small, misguided, easily misled.

When it comes to the big picture, it's hard to imagine very many of us willingly embracing the type of mindful, truth-telling leadership it would take for us to not only survive but become responsible (peaceful) caretakers of one another and the planet.

Nor do I don't think such a person, if they even exist, would be interested in entering the political ring.

Twilight said...

LB (again) ~ I dislike the expression, but will use it here: "It is what it is". We are where we are, and stuck with it, whether we like it or not. It's up to us to do whatever we can to see that the best of what's on offer gets a chance. Otherwise things can only get worse, and a lot worse. Even marking time would be better than regressing - which is what some, who shall be nameless, would have us do.