When Michael Render, AKA Killer Mike, introduced presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, he gave the Vermont senator another vital foot in the door toward African-American support. The dominos, so to speak, are beginning to fall in Sanders’ favor.
One of Bernie Sanders’ earliest endorsements came from Dr. Cornel West, a notable philosopher and advocate for African-American rights. Since then, the list of endorsement from black celebrities and leaders have begun to trickle in. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). Former Ohio Democratic legislator Nina Turner. Musicians Lil B and Scarface.
And now, Killer Mike of hip-hop group Run the Jewels has thrown his wholehearted support behind Bernie Sanders. Why is his endorsement so important?
Paula Meara, writing for BET.com explained why Killer Mike’s speech was possibly a game changer.
Killer Mike was grandstanding his own politics for a politician with the b***s to let him speak his mind. And that’s bigger than you think it is in a world still deciding hip hop’s role in social change beyond music…Hip hop culture was born among the betrayal of the Black community. Its roots are embedded in speaking out against inequality, which is perhaps a parallel to Sanders’s most famous talking point.
Killer Mike’s endorsement is especially important because of hip hop’s popularity among music listeners. It is a genre that transcends ethnicity or race, and Mike’s longevity in the business along with his strong history of activism lends credence to his support of Bernie Sanders. His endorsement is even more striking considering his well-known distrust of political and religious leaders.
I have said in many a rap, I don’t trust the church or the government, a Democrat, Republican, a pope, a bishop or those other men. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that Sen. Bernie Sanders is the right man to lead this country.
Prior to April, when Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, few African-Americans outside of Washington, D.C. knew who he was. Many of them automatically threw their support behind Hillary Clinton, whose name recognition spans the globe. Yet with each passing day, with each campaign stop and with each rally, more and more potential voters are getting to know him.
And what they’re learning hits home for many.
They learn that Bernie Sanders marched on Washington and watched Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” Speech. They learn that Bernie Sanders has fought for equal rights for minorities since he was a college student in Chicago. They learn that he believes that regardless of economic status or ethnicity, everyone deserves to get a quality education. They learn that Bernie Sanders wants to put an end to police brutality. When they listen to him speak, they hear a man speaking not in meaningless platitudes, but with an earnestness and sincerity that is all-too rare among politicians.
They hear a man telling them the truth, without the sugar coating. And they hear a man who seeks a solution to the hard realities that so often accompany the lives of Black Americans. They hear a man tell them that their lives matter and that police brutality must end. And when famous Black leaders and celebrities take up the mantle of support, many in the African-American community sit up and take notice.
Killer Mike’s endorsement is perhaps even more meaningful because of how he has framed it. In a conversation with HuffPo Live, he called Bernie Sanders an “extension of Dr. King,” because his philosophy and life-long equal rights activism most closely resemble those of the late Civil Rights leader than any other candidate.
Of course, there are those who believe an endorsement by a hip hop artist may not mean anything. After all, turnout among young voters is consistently low, especially among minorities. Yet this old canard simply does not reflect the demographics of hip hop. The musical genre attracts the young and old alike, and Killer Mike boasts a following extending back to 2000, when he debuted on Outkast’s album “Stankonia.”
Bernie Sanders can win the Black vote, and then the nomination, with the help of prominent African-American supporters. He won’t win support simply by stumping. He won’t get enough votes by making the occasional appearance on television. In order to beat Hillary, he must garner significant support from leaders within the Black community. And if he can win enough votes, he will win the White House.
[Photo: Alli Harvey: Getty Images]