The media of late has been questioning Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) commitment to issues that are important to minorities. However, as we previously noted, Sanders’s commitment to racial issues dates back to the 1960’s, when he participated in the 1963 ‘March on Washington’ and was apparently also arrested in a civil rights protest against discriminatory housing practices in Chicago. Yesterday, acknowledging his life-long commitment to minority rights issues, Sanders received the endorsement of the iconic film director and social activist Spike Lee. Lee noted that Sanders did in fact attend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington, reflecting Sanders’s life-long consistency on civil rights and economic issues. Of Sanders, Lee said: “No flipping, no flopping.”
“When Bernie gets into the White House he will do the right thing,” Lee said, riffing on his 1998 movie “Do the Right Thing.” Expanding on the broader theme of disenfranchisement, Lee also included people hurt by the 2008 financial crisis. Lee will be featured in a 60-second radio ad in South Carolina, in which he says: “99 percent of Americans were hurt by the financial crisis. And that’s why I’m officially endorsing my brother Bernie Sanders.”
Sanders has also received the backing of veteran actor Danny Glover, who is rallying support for Sanders in the Palmetto state. Glover characterized Sanders “as an advocate for civil rights during his decades in Congress.” Earlier this month, Sanders received the endorsement of civil rights activist and legendary singer Harry Belafonte, who said of Sanders: “I think he represents opportunity. I think he represents a moral imperative. I think he represents a certain kind of truth that’s not often evidenced in the course of politics…Sanders is capable of delivering the political revolution the Vermont lawmaker often promises.”
The roster of African American luminaries and public intellectuals helping to shore up Sanders’s support within the African-American community is growing by the day. It includes writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, and philosopher Cornell West, PhD.
Tackling the structural inequality that exists in this country is at the heart of Sanders’s campaign. He considers economic inequality and institutional racism as “parallel problems.” Sanders has dedicated his life to a conversation about race, addressing “the different kinds of violence perpetrated against people of color: physical, legal, political, and economic.” He continues to advocate for criminal justice reform, saying that our for-profit criminal justice system over-incarcerates and disenfranchises people of color. Systemic racism and discrimination are major sources of economic inequality, resulting in significant unemployment and under-employment in the African-American community. In response, Sanders is advocating free public college – and access to training, which along with the creation of jobs and raising the minimum wage will help families of color improve their overall quality of life. Indeed, because Sanders understands these systemic problems and has spent more than 50 years fighting against racial injustice and for economic equality – that Belafonte, Lee, West, Glover, et al. believe that a Bernie presidency will offer all Americans a real chance to get ahead in America.