June 12, 2016
Roz Omid


Maybe Bernie Sanders thinks that the poor or middle class black folks in the south who didn’t vote for him in the primary weren’t educated enough about what he stood for. On the contrary I think Bernie wasn’t educated enough about this demographic in the south and elsewhere in the country and what they stood for.

I have known where Bernie Sanders stands on race issues from the time I saw him on Burlington, Vermont’s Church Street in 1995 and handed him an open letter I had just written. Back then he couldn’t understand why it was crucial for the University of Vermont to put more resources to educate the white majority student body in racial issues that flared up a semester or two before that day and 20 years later he doesn’t get why African Americans in the South would rather vote for Hillary Clinton. Yes he is a sympathizer but we need go beyond that and keep educating ourselves on race and domination issues. Some of his white supporters here in Oregon have said to my face, point blank, that the blacks in the south are not educated enough to understand Bernie and they are just voting by some old loyalty towards the Clintons. Sanders won Michigan, Oregon and most white northern states but in Mississippi he lost to Hillary, big, 83% to 17%. If Sanders had gone to the South a year ago and said; I don’t know what it mean to be black in America like the Clintons understand but I’m willing to listen and try to understand and do my best to be on the side of African Americans and other people of color, he would have won the democratic nomination. Instead he pretended or rather he thought he understood and acted as he understood.

A Bernie volunteer emailed this to me, “I think that one encouraging thing is that most in the African American intellectual and creative class have strongly and publicly endorsed Bernie.  Cornel West even said that the reason that the majority African Americans have not yet joined the cause, is because they don’t yet know about Bernie. He feels that as they learn more about him, they will also come over to Bernie’s side. Their allegiance to Hillary Clinton is based primarily on historical affiliations with the Clintons. But maybe this won’t happen in time for all the primaries.  Then we’ll just have to rely on their good judgement, and possibly listening to leaders in the African American Community.”

As far as I can tell, this governing system is not working and people ought to write in their next president as, “No One”. Imagine 30 million people wrote that in! But if someone is going to be the president and this system continues, Bernie Sanders maybe the best option on changing this system to one that can work better. I know what he did for Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s when he was the mayor which was good.

Intellectual  African Americans like Cornel West are not mothers who lost their 18 and 19 year old young men who get shot by white policeman because they get scared of the unarmed black men and shoot them dead. He is not the mother of a 12 year old black boy killed by the police because he was waving a toy gun in a playground, or other unknown African American mothers who have lost their children. It’s easy for an intellectual like West living the academics lifestyle among the white middle and upper class to see the intellectual qualities of Bernie than mothers, fathers, families, and communities who are still grieving and continue to live with the fear of losing their young men and women. The five mothers who sat on the stage with Hillary and gave their support are not any less smarter than Cornel West. In fact there might be an argument here that they know something that West doesn’t know and even smarter than him to choose Hillary for their cause.

African Americans are clearly sending this message, “Don’t think we all think and feel alike. Some of us want to vote for Hillary not because we have some ‘historical affiliations with the Clintons’ but because we want to send a message not only to the right wing but also to the left and liberal whites in this country.”  Some are diplomatic to offend the white left and liberal, their closest white allies. So for good reason they might be masking the real reason by saying things like, “I want to see a female president.” They are careful not to offend Bernie supporters. Their underlying message could be “Hillary feels our pain and shows compassion without taking on guilt and without trying heal or fix us from Vermont. The healing comes from within us not from you trying to fix our problems from afar.”

Forgiveness of the family of the nine African Americans shot and killed in a church basement last year in South Carolina that brought down the confederate flag in front of their State Capital, not hate. State Legislator who had wanted to keeping the flag in the past, one by one said that they were moved by the forgiveness of the families of the victims and that was the reason they changed their minds and brought down the flag. I’m sure there were some sound reasoning there too such as what governor Nikki Haley said, “No one should feel pain” after realizing that “people were driving by (the State Capital) and felt hurt and pain”.

Bernie Sanders is genuinely a good person, a politician for the people, a loving grandfather, and all but he didn’t understand what he needed to do, along with Cornel West, to get the black vote in the South, a voting population that could have easily helped him win the primary election. Let’s say I’m wrong and even he admitted that he understood racial issues less than Clinton and would try to understand he wouldn’t have gotten enough delegates to win the primary, he would have more delegates than he has now. I wish he would contemplate on Murray’s words, another Brooklyn Jew who lived in Bernie’s home town of Burlington, Vermont. Murray said, “There are no hierarchies in nature other than those imposed by hierarchical modes of human thought…”

One of the many good things that Obama’s presidency brought to America, the world, and especially to the African American communities is well describe by Khallil Gibran Muhammad, “There is no magic office or magic platform that will solve Black people’s problems.”  It’s the people who can make fundamental changes and not necessarily the people they elect. Yet Obama presidency has brought “change”, especially in respect to race, oppression that African Americans feel, and what they understand now; communities are the power that can bring real change.