Yes, We Should Be Critical of Bernie Sanders and 3 Ways You’re Missing the Point

In many “progressive” digital and non-digital circles,  Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), a Democratic candidate for president, is “the one” and “the only.”

At this point in the campaign, it is undeniable to say that Sen. Sanders has a chance for the ticket, even with front-runner Hillary Clinton in play.

The Vermont senator’s Saturday speech in Seattle drew a hearty crowd of 12,000 individuals. As the Senator made his opening remarks, activists who associated themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement came to the stage to let Seattle know Black lives do indeed matter.

The act of the activists have opened the floodgates that has everyone asking the question: “Should we criticize Sen. Sanders or are we attacking ‘the wrong candidate’?”

Supporters of Sen. Sanders’ camp have extremely vocal in denying any criticism is justified while “Black Twitter” has been largely divided on the issue (which they’ve been discussing before the Saturday Seattle event. SEE: #BernieSoBlack)


I’m here to tell you that any politician, even Bernie Sanders, isn’t above criticism. Even if you’re trying to argue any of the following:

“He was a civil rights activist” or “He marched with Dr. King”

Marching with Dr. King doesn’t make Sanders untouchable or a saint. Sanders doesn’t get to go pass conversations about black inequality and collect $200. When we discuss Senator Sanders marching with MLK whenever someone tries to address Sanders’ stance on civil rights and structural racism issues, we are doing Black Americans a disservice.

This disservice comes in the form of his silence and redirection to “Well, I marched with Dr. King” from both Bernie’s camp and supporters when confronted with black issues. Neither of which answers the question of: “What do you plan to do for the life-threatening issues black Americans face?”

And to that point we should note that Bernie, or any candidate for that matter, cannot win without explicitly stating that minority voters’ concerns matter.

“Go attack the real enemy like Fox News or Republicans” or “The Black Lives Matter protesters in Seattle were unjustified”

To say that we should go “attack the real enemies” is to undermine the fact that no one is exempt from or above criticism. Criticizing Bernie is not the same as uplifting other candidates. People associated with #BlackLivesMatter have been vocal about criticizing both Republicans, Fox News and Bernie Sanders since campaign season started.

Furthermore if you want to discuss political etiquette of groups or individuals, then why do we continue to allow presidential hopeful Trump’s crass and misogynistic statements and farce of a campaign? Political etiquette and respectability went out the window when he entered the race.

Go ahead and clutch your pearls to that one.

“He’s said more about black / minority lives than any other candidate.”


He’s said more than other candidates, yes. Hell, even Hillary unforgettably said All Lives Matter.

But Bernie is not reinventing the wheel by saying more nor is he making it spin. He has stated that maybe the wheel should spin another way and some of you think that is enough. And I’m trying to say that we need someone to point out that the wheel is broken and try to fix it.

In other words, I am not applauding Bernie for addressing black issues or being the candidate that will speak more openly than others because that is not a true measurement of progress. I will not settle for the woefully inadequate focus that black issues have gotten. I, and many other voters, demand more. We should stop treating the justified skepticism of black voters as an enemy of progress.

But I can say that I am listening, actively listening to Senator Sanders’ campaign. I also very much expect Sanders’ camp to realign their strategy (and get their life together) in the coming weeks by addressing #BlackLivesMatter, police brutality, systematic racism and other issues head on.

But even then, Senator Sanders will not be above criticism


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  1. David 2 years ago

    Great piece! Except it should be said that Rand Paul (like him or not) is the candidate that has spoken the most about black injustice and criminal justice reform–much more than Bernie Sanders. Paul actually made it a priority in his campaign. Like Obama said “we have to give credit when it’s due.”

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  2. Jonny 2 years ago

    I understand the point of criticism for all, but you just disproved your only argument with the video you posted of Bernie Sanders interview. What the basis of this criticism is, at this point, is that it’s not good enough to acknowledge injustice, but that a candidate must objectively identify ways he or she will remediate the injustice. I think he outlined very clearly how he plans to remediate social and economic inequality. “I want to end the war on drugs” that sounds very objective to me. As you know the “war on drugs” isn’t some abstract name for shaking down black people, it’s very real, legal, and procedural. policies that were implemented in the LBJ presidency for the war on drugs need to be amended and repealed. “I want to demilitarize the police”, I’m sure that can be argued for being vague and subjective as well but I would argue that it’s just as objective as ending the war on drugs. No more automatic weapons, no more lethal weapons, change the educational process of police academies to teach more non lethal tactics.

    futhermore we know there is a white societal fearfulness of the archetypal black body. No one knows what it will take to abolish that irrational fearfulness. I believe it is much sociological than what any president can guerentee so there for, it is actually a very bad thing that the black lives matters movement is criticizing Bernie Sanders (though I don’t think the official movement has anything to do with this) because it cast not only “the best of all the evils” in a negative light when in actuality Bernie isn’t the “best of all the evils” he is just genuinely objectively and flat out the greatest candidate that we as a collective society can chose to lead us.

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