With election season upon us, we are faced with many pressing issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug. Recent events have ensured that civil rights and poor treatment of African-Americans will not go unnoticed this election cycle, spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement which has been showing up to campaign events across the nation.
During a Bernie Sanders campaign event in Seattle, Washington, Black Lives Matters activists took to the stage and commandeered the rally’s attention. Sanders had the grace to step aside and let them use his podium, which prompted criticism from his supporters but started a much deeper conversation between Sanders and the BLM movement, exploring how their message could be integrated into his populist campaign.
One person who seemed to perfectly articulate the movement’s message alongside Sanders’ history of civil rights support was Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
While appearing in August on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Booker maintained Sanders’ longstanding relationship with minority communities. He said:
“Bernie Sanders is a friend and a colleague. I’m supporting Hillary Clinton in the — in this election, but Bernie has become somebody… I have tremendous respect for and is an ally of mine in addressing issues in the United States Senate that affect minority communities. He has a long record of civil rights.”
However, Booker continued on and shared his thoughts on why Black Lives Matter is rightfully frustrated and further action needs to be taken.
“But the anger you saw there, the — from the protesters, this is a legitimate degree of frustration in this country, in a nation that has yet to confront what I believe are persistent civil rights issues, human rights issues… There are some states where one in five black Americans don’t have a right to vote because of this mass felony franchise.
But that’s just one thing. We have an overall prison system where we see that there’s no difference in America between blacks and whites, between minorities and whites in using drugs. In fact, there’s no difference in dealing drugs. Some studies show that young whites have more of a chance of being drug dealers, but yet we have an incarceration rate for drugs — for drug use and for drug selling — that is disproportionately seen in — in communities of color.
And the result of that has created these awful realities in America, where right now, we have more African-Americans under criminal supervision than all of the slaves in 1850, where we have a nation that has states like mine, that has 14, 15 percent African-Americans, but the prison population is over 60 percent black.
And so when you know that it is no difference, but if you’re an African-American, you’re almost four times more likely to be caught for using marijuana than if you were white, when you see a criminal justice system that is not what the Supreme Court has etched in its wall, equal justice under the law, please understand that there is going to be an understandable reaction to that in our country.
And the criminal justice system is so overbroad right now, that we, as a nation, are spending a quarter of a trillion dollars a year. We have — we’re 4 percent of the — of the globe’s population, 4 to 5 percent, but we have one out of every four imprisoned people here in this country.
And so, yes, there’s a reason to be upset… And there’s a reason to act out.”
So, when Black Lives Matter shows up at a Bernie Sanders event, it actually makes perfect sense. People are angry and want action, and who better to bring these issues to than a man who has a long history of civil rights action. They are approaching a man who may actually give a damn about getting their concerns met and goals accomplished. Sanders supporters may have resented the intrusion at his rally, but they chose him for a reason- they knew that Sanders is the people’s candidate who will legitimately listen to BLM’s grievances and work to do something about it.
Here’s Sen. Cory Booker on This Week discussing Sanders and Black Lives Matter (begins at 3:40):
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.