Black Lives Matter Feels the Bern

Bernie Sanders received a lot of heat from Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists over the summer and I didn’t like it.  I criticized aspects of the movement and one of its most prominent leaders Shaun King.  I reasoned that Bernie was obviously the best candidate for African-Americans just as he is best for all Americans and rather than confront him and possibly undermine his campaign, BLM should work with him.

On October 5, I posted 5 Reasons Hillary Clinton could Lose her Advantage with Democrats of Color.  I noted 1) Bernie’s five decades of work in the civil rights movements, 2) his focus on economic injustice, 3) his willingness to criticize Israel, 4)  Clinton’s repeated use of the race card in 2008 against Barack Obama, and 5) her pro-incarceration pro-death penalty record.

Well BLM has come around to my way of thinking.  BLM offshoot Campaign Zero now rates Bernie positively on 9 of its 10 core issues – the most of any ranked candidate.  Clinton and Martin O’Malley rate positively on 7.

Today, the New York Daily News published a comprehensive op-ed by Shaun King endorsing Bernie Sanders.  King explains that Sanders “most embodies the values and ideals of the man who led the civil rights movement” – Dr. Martin Luther King – and with whom Sanders marched in the 1960s.  Shaun King praises Sanders for being “without a doubt, the most consistent politician in America and . . . fighting for universal health care, access to education, equal pay, equal rights and the complete overhaul of how we do justice in this country for his entire career.”

King notes, as I did, 1) Sanders’ endorsement of Jesse Jackson in 1988 and 2) his call to close all private prisons.  But King also discusses 3) Sanders’ votes against both wars against Iraq, 4) his decision to hire Symone Sanders as his national press secretary, 5) his compassionate position on immigration reform, and 6) his bravery in tackling police violence against African-Americans.

As Clinton faces the real possibility of losing the first two primaries, both of which are in predominantly white states, her backers point to the disproportionate support she has in the African-American and Latinos communities.  These will serve as an unbreachable firewall they confidently proclaim.  This confidence may be misplaced.  With Shaun King joining rapper Killer Mike, Dr. Cornel West, and Congressman Keith Ellison on Team Sanders,  Clinton’s advantage among African-Americans could evaporate as quickly as her advantage among whites has over the past few weeks.

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