Bernie Sanders said something easily spun into controversy and you can be sure the corporate-owned media jumped at the chance to needlessly make it a story.
What most people have read or heard in the mainstream media is this: in response to the question, “What racial blind spots do you have?” Bernie Sanders answered, “When you’re white you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto.”
Bernie didn’t even try to get people to listen to the fact that his answer was much more comprehensive than that, but he did defend his statement in a Town Hall meeting following the Democratic debate on Sunday.
You can watch that clarification here:
On the surface, this simplified statement being thrown about by everyone who doesn’t want the “revolution” that Sanders represents, may make it sound like he is ignoring the plight of white people trapped in the hell of poverty. One could also assume Sanders meant that all black people live in the ghetto. Of course, it doesn’t mean these things at all, and it isn’t a stand-alone statement — it is a soundbite that can be used by anyone on either side to “spin” the discussion. Why? Because this “comment” was an answer to a question and taken out of context.
First, the full question, from CNN’s Don Lemon:
In a speech about policing, the FBI director borrowed a phrase from ‘Avenue Q’ saying, ‘Everybody is a little racist.’ So on a personal front, what racial blind spots do you have?
Here is the full answer to the question:
SANDERS: Well, let me just very briefly tell you a story. When I was in one of my first years in Congress, I went to a meeting downtown in Washington, D.C. And I went there with another congressman, an African-American congressman. And then we kind of separated during the meeting. And then I saw him out later on. And he was sitting there waiting and I said, well, let’s go out and get a cab. How come you didn’t go out and get a cab?
He said, no, I don’t get cabs in Washington, D.C. This was 20 years ago. Because he was humiliated by the fact that cabdrivers would go past him because he was black. I couldn’t believe, you know, you just sit there and you say, this man did not take a cab 20 years ago in Washington, D.C. Tell you another story, I was with young people active in the Black Lives Matter movement. A young lady comes up to me and she says, you don’t understand what police do in certain black communities. You don’t understand the degree to which we are terrorized, and I’m not just talking about the horrible shootings that we have seen, which have got to end and we’ve got to hold police officers accountable, I’m just talking about every day activities where police officers are bullying people.
So to answer your question, I would say, and I think it’s similar to what the secretary said, when you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car.
As you can see, there is a lot more to this than the single sentence above — in fact, the parts of the question and answer that are being reported most are bolded above; once again we are getting about 1 percent of the story.
People who have heard or read only the soundbite, especially white people who are living in poverty, may be tempted to say that this answer was racist against whites. Honestly, when taken in soundbite form it really is just an awkward answer, and many people may be upset by what looks like an assumption that all black, but no white people, live in “ghettos.”
There are three major problems with either assertion, though, which you can read in full here. The fact is that this answer shows that he has been aware of the disgusting abuse that black people, from older black lawmakers 20 years ago to young protesters today, have been subject to and he has never ignored it.
Once again, the soundbite-hungry media is using an out of context quote to undermine a political candidate who they can’t find any real dirt on. Sure, he could have said “white privilege” or even not used the word “ghetto,” but the fact is that this answer, in its entirety, is a kick-ass answer. It shows a real understanding of the fact that while we can never really know what it is like to be someone else, that doesn’t mean we have to be afraid of them, and it doesn’t mean we stop fighting for equality.
And, Bernie Sanders never has stopped fighting for equality, so this statement and his defense of the soundbite also rings true.
Featured image via screen capture