Voting While Pro-Black: Why I Do Not Yet Feel the Bern

I came into political consciousness in 2008 — the year that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama energized the leftist base with the promise of politics-no-longer-as-usual. I found myself annoyed that I was only a year away from legal voting age, and looked forward to casting my vote in his favor come 2012.

Much has changed since then. Actively pro-Black, I’m more politically conscious, and better versed in how the archaic anti-Black electoral process is unable to address the dire and specific needs of Black communities. I’m disillusioned with this dysfunctional two-party system that relies on overpriced and petulant public relations campaigns designed to exploit the minor differences between the two dominant political parties, while hiding the most anti-Black similarities.

So now, it’s 2015, and the presidential brouhaha is revving up. Voting for Republicans is out of the question – as a Black queer women with insurmountable student loan debt, they hate everything about me …from my body to my bank account.

Democrats are a little more auspicious, but not by much.

Hillary Clinton and her hardened nefarious ties to the elite financial sector, rule her out completely. But of all presidential options, she’s probably the most qualified to uphold, reinforce, and embolden the executive office that functions more as a corporate boardroom, than a transparent public sphere. A political pragmatist with little creativity and a rigid capitalist dogma, she’s perfectly positioned to be Chief Executive Officer of the foremost neoliberal corporate regime in the global sphere.

Ex-Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley seems clumsy and unprepared for high-ranking office. I suspect that this candidacy is more of a publicity stunt than a credible, probable public option. A month ago, I had no clue he was … and now, he occupies an entire bookmarked folder on my laptop.

So let’s focus on Sen. Bernie Sanders – a true liberal underdog, a political rebel, and a man whose increasing exposure and enthusiastic base mirror the energy President Obama cultivated back in 2008. Sen. Sanders, with his demonstrated anti-capitalist voting record and socialist public statements, speaks to the disillusioned – those of us on the left who are personally disappointed by President Obama, and are looking for a warrior who can carry the ultra-liberal torch and do what President Obama (for many reasons) could not.

A year ago — with little reservations and an arsenal of excuses — I would’ve been excited about Sen. Sanders’ prospects. But now, I’m more critical. His big-boy-liberal-lion talk sounds a lot like Mayor Bill de Blasio; touting his civil rights history much in the way de Blasio paraded his Black family for literal Brownie points.

And we see just how anti-Black de Blasio proved – and continues to prove – to be.

Plus, I’m no longer a liberal. I’m a radical. A pro-Black queer feminist one. In the Spirit of Mother Ida B. Wells and Ella Baker, and Aunties Angela and Assata, I look at the root causes of institutional racism, see its tentacles wrapped in and around structural violence, police functions, generational poverty, and sexual assault, and further affirmed by individual agents who masquerade as colorblind post-racialists, Black-to-white power brokers, the unsuspecting, and the un-woke.

Liberals, and their white savior violence, refuse to center Black lives in their social justice framework, and instead dilute their political stance with vague calls for economic reform. This is the sentiment that Bernie Sanders relies upon, and his base — predominately white — readily soaks it up with fervor.

Yes, economic equity is undoubtedly tied to Black Liberation. But police don’t ask for our college degrees, resumes, or net worth when they kill us and blame us for our deaths.

As much as I want to like Bernie, I’m troubled by his discomfort with Black lives. The recent showdown at Netroots amplified his disconnect. After Black Lives Matter organizers demanded that he respond to anti-Black police violence, especially as it relates to Black women like Sandra Bland, he refused to listen.

He tried to silence Black protestors with a stump speech that’s been repeated, regurgitated, and reworked ad nauseam. He then canceled his scheduled talks with Black organizers because …. his feelings were hurt? He couldn’t handle it? He realized that not everyone thinks he’s a darling socialist munchkin? Who knows, because he hasn’t addressed it — yet another failure of his. And then there was the Twitter fumble shortly afterward. 

And his base — at least the segment that’s most vocal on social media — is terrible. They obnoxiously take up space, and shove Bernie Sanders’ civil rights record down Black throats to dismiss significant, valid, and current pro-Black demands.

“Bernie Sanders done enough for you ungrateful negroes. He marched with that Dr. King fella. How dare you challenge him! Don’tcha know he’s what’s best for you!”

His most enthused supporters are condescending at best, and anti-Black at worse — they’re white saviors who believe that us Black folk are too stupid or uninformed to make the best political decisions on our own behalf. And this leads me to question what it is about Bernie that attracts such a group.

I have yet to #FeelTheBern. While I think he most aligns with my politic, I still find him problematic because the foundation of my politic is one that’s pro-Black, and his isn’t. Pro-Blackness is a byproduct for him that he’ll push aside when convenient or necessary.

Featured Image Credit:

11737805_10205617024438576_2107236448178302735_nArielle Newton, Creator. Head Girl of Ravenclaw. Get at me @arielle_newton. Get at us @BlkMillennials. Write for us. 


9 responses to “Voting While Pro-Black: Why I Do Not Yet Feel the Bern

  1. bernie isnt black, i am so sorry.
    bernie wants a 15 dollar an hour minimum wage and single payer national healthcare for all as well as free college tuition for everybody and does not want wall street to run this country and wants public rather than private money to all people who run for office so those who have power do not take money from the poor to give it all to the rich.

    but he does not understand race issues good enough even though he started out as a civil rights worker who went to jail for protesting segregation, but he did not deal with the hecklers too well because he stuck to his points and what he cares about, the issues that effect everybody regardless of their race.

    yes, bernie isnt black, does not understand what it means to be black and all the protesters accomplished was making it look like he cant get black voters because black people hate him.

    even if that is not true that will be the mainstream media’s take on all this you can be sure of that.

    the mainstream media’s darling is hillary clinton and she will do nothing about all the things i mentioned because she is a corporatist.

    black lives do matter but it also matters what kind of person we end up with occupying the white house.


    • That “I’m so sorry” sounds anything but apologetic. What percentage of black people have voted for Dems since the Civil Rights Act? Over 95%, every single time. How often has that been a black presidential candidate? ONCE. So don’t go acting like it’s a black candidate that she wants. There is a black man running, he’s a Republican, he’s not even on her radar, so it isn’t about color.

      It’s about justice. It’s about life or death. It’s about freedom or decades in prisons. And that “I’m so NOT sorry” attitude is exactly what makes us people of color say: “Why the hell should we make alliances with these people, who keep telling us to get to the back of the damn bus, again?! They want more money and we better get with them so they can live plush again, but we want to live free of jails and prisons, police brutality and murder, go to college, earn a living and rent and buy a home like anyone else, and we need to WAIT?”

      Arielle, gf, do like we always have done, always will do: Walk on by that “Why aren’t you grateful?” comment. I’ll address you with respect, asking from you only that you do what adults who use the ballot for their benefit do: participate, and push!


  2. It’s sad that you think you’re so aware or came to awareness in 2008 when “drone, TPP” president came to be. I supported him in 2008, but was let down in 2009. Obama is the best thing that happened to corporations and by extension to the two party White establishment. Bernie is not perfect, but he hasn’t swayed from his Socialist beliefs & actions since he was elected in Vermont. He’s not like Hillary that says what her pollsters tell her too. The oligarchy system in this country is nauseating and Bernie is getting many people from all walks of life, all colors, ages, athnicities, etc., excited. He’s not going to do it alone, he needs a grassroots movement. And he too is real.


  3. Truth: “Yes, economic equity is undoubtedly tied to Black Liberation. But police don’t ask for our college degrees, resumes, or net worth when they kill us and blame us for our deaths.”

    But police do assume you’re poor, or your money’s only from running drugs and guns. If they think you might be an educated negro, they arrest you rather than shoot – as happened to Henry Louis Gates and every black man and woman coming out of a millionaires’ gated community, rare as they are – just in case you can open a can of Harvard or Howard Law whupass on them.

    Why are we so poor? Could it be that there’s discrimination, that’s against the laws fought and bled for? Could it be that those laws aren’t enforced? That every time a fair housing or anti-job discrimination group goes out, and the black person inevitably gets dismissed, turned down, smiled at while his/her resume/rental app gets crumbled and recycled, no one who discriminates goes to jail?

    It’s not just cops that don’t go to jail. There are laws to end all the abuses, but we don’t work to get them enforced. The banks discriminate, the landlords discriminate, the temp agencies and human resources departments discriminate, and we do nothing. We say we’ll do ‘grassroots’ work, then nothing happens.

    The Dems keep going to corporations for $ and we either don’t vote for them and get Republicans, or vote for them and demand nothing in return. The Dem clubs, where Dems decide who to endorse and fund? The grassroots ain’t there. The Progressive Caucus, that Bernie helped start btw, and has fought long and hard for better enforcement of existing laws, better laws, and better funding for the poor, gets no backup from ‘the grassroots’. Where can the grassroots go to back them up? To local Dem meetings, to push those clubs so far left and so deep into justice movements that they’ll become the third party you always dreamed of.

    Get elected locally? You’ll run across the 2-party system there too and the money. You’ll find power corrupts, and need turnover, need a real fighter on your side in the next primary season, to replace the fighter who sold out.

    Got the wherewithal to sit thru Dem club meetings, become a precinct captain, get worthwhile candidates and issues on the ballots, or do you expect separate and unequal organizations to just get a seat at the table? Oh, they’ll let you speechify, nod – then dismiss you if you don’t get to doing the work to elect accountable reps and pass just laws. When they only want to get to conventions and their pics taken with a powerful rep, they’ll resist, push you out with sheer boredom – until you push back, with a posse that can elect or replace them.

    There are only two ways to make change: the ballot, or the bullet. We are running out of time, and by no means running out of bullets. You can muster the energy to vote or caucus for Bernie in the primary to keep Hillary and the GOP out, to get 3 civil rights instead of Wall St Supreme Court justices, and to get a civil rights lawyer instead of a corporate Wall St lobbyist lawyer to run the Justice Dept. Then you can go back to hopefully getting that grassroots to a Dem mtg or 10, to take over the committees, the fundraising, the outreach operations. You can hold local officials accountable for local police, state officials accountable for highway patrol, federal officials accountable for border patrol.

    We haven’t even begun to start taking hold of this democratic republic system, and squeezing it until it delivers or yells ‘uncle.’ It’s about time we did, nationally and locally. It’ll never be perfect – it’s made up of people, after all – but it can be a damn sight better than it is right now.


  4. I love your website Arielle Newton ans would like to know more about your career goals in life. My question to you is Google search JFK quote when he stated don’t ask for the Democratic or Republican answer. He was right when it comes to the black experience in America. Strong independent blacks like you would start an independent political party for the black racial groups what would be the goals of the party? I think you extremely smart and beautiful you would make Huey Newton proud.


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