African-Americans who have never heard of Bernie Sanders are now getting to know him. And many like what they see. What has also helped is that major black figures, like filmmaker Spike Lee, former NAACP leader Ben Jealous, actor Danny Glover, and several Black legislators have expressed enthusiastic support for Sanders in recent days.
Spike Lee, whose credits include Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X, and more recently, Chi-Raq, has been blunt and unwavering in his support. He has criticized Clinton for referring to the black vote as a “firewall” and has stated that he believes Bernie Sanders will do right by the American people if elected president.
In a recent ad release in South Carolina, ahead of the state’s primaries, Lee encouraged Black voters to “wake up” and support Sanders, in a reference to his 1989 movie Do the Right Thing.
“Ninety-nine percent of Americans were hurt by the great recession of 2008, and many are still recovering. And that’s why I am officially endorsing my brother Bernie Sanders. Bernie takes no money from corporations. Nada. Which means he is not on the take. And when Bernie gets into the White House, he will do the right thing.”
Continuing the ad, Lee referred to Bernie Sanders lifelong work in the Civil Rights movement, including his arrest in Chicago for protesting segregated housing and his participation in the March on Washington to see Martin Luther King, Jr.
When two Black Lives Matter protestors interrupted Sanders during a speech, he stepped back to let them talk. Some people called his reaction weak, but many African-Americans and other minorities saw it as a willingness to listen to the dialogue and take it seriously.
This is in stark contrast to Clinton, who shrugged off BLM protester Ashley Williams, who demanded to know why she’d once said, “We must bring them to heel,” in a 1996 speech regarding black youth. After the young woman was escorted out by Secret Service agents, Clinton ignored the incident and told her mostly white, female audience, “Okay, back to the issues,” as if Williams had never crashed her party.
But because Sanders actually listens and cares about voters, two major legislators switched their support from Hillary to Bernie. Justin Bamberg of South Carolina announced his support in early February. Georgia State Rep. Vincent Fort announced his support just days ago, citing Bernie’s integrity and long history of civil rights activism. Both are well-known Black politicians in their state.
On Friday morning, Sanders called in to radio show The Breakfast Club to discuss his campaign and his history of working in, and support for, Civil Rights. According to BET, he spoke with Charlamagne Tha God, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee. During the 16-minute interview, he expressed outrage at the how the police nationwide tend to criminalize Black people much more than people of other ethnicities.
“We’ve got to demilitarize these police departments…We have to make police departments look like the diversity of the communities they serve.”
Sanders expressed support for accountability of police officers who break the law. He also voiced support for legalizing marijuana on the federal level, citing the outrageously high incarceration rate of Black Americans.
“We gotta get marijuana out of the Federal Controlled Substances Act. African Americans are many times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than whites despite the fact that both communities smoke marijuana at the same level.”
Sanders also told the radio hosts that he had voted for Jessie Jackson in 1988.
Just as Bernie has stepped back to listen to black voters, so too, have they stepped back to listen to his message. And when they hear his message, they realize he is the president the United States needs.
National Nurses United posted a video showing a man by the name of Curtis Dixon, who works in collard fields in South Carolina. He earns a minimum wage of $7.75 for backbreaking task of harvesting the crops. His wage sometimes doesn’t even add up to the minimum wage, as he is paid just $1.50 per box.
Dixon and his entire family are now voting for Bernie Sanders.
“I’m coming out here doing my job. From seven in the morning to seven at night. Because this is my responsibility. My kids. Because when you come out here, that means you’re trying to pay your water bill, your light bill, you have nothing…”
If enough voters like Curtis Dixon listen to Bernie Sanders, he could win a significant portion of Black support in Saturday’s primary.
[Photo: Scott Olson/Getty]