Sanders Revolution: Radical on Economics, Moderate on Race and Gender

Lately I have been discussing a strange phenomenon that has made itself evident with regards to the Bernie Sanders revolution. They are decidedly moderate on race and gender. Moderate to the point of being almost conservative or ‘regressive’. This is not to say that they are as bad as the MAGA crowd, who fervently pray for a wall to separate our nation from Mexico, that warm and exciting place filled with so many exotic brown people that they fear and loathe. No, I am talking about their constant attack on identity politics and the insidious sexism and racism that is couched in deceptive language.

Their cries of ‘divisive!’ when entering a discussion of minority rights shows that they consider a discussion of anything not pertaining to a generic version of American to be toxic. Their pleas for unity usually contain a component of outright dismissal of concerns for women’s reproductive rights. Their reasoning is that we cannot win back the white working class if we seem to be pushing for the rights of the minority. That our activism on behalf of groups that have been historically disadvantaged leads to us neglecting the class issues that affect ‘everyone’.

It is obvious that without a focus on those groups who are doing worse than the white working class, those groups will not receive the full benefits of any programs that he wishes to implement. In other words, without Social Justice, there can be no Economic Equality. And although they pay lip service to dedicating themselves to the fight for prison reform, and women’s rights, the fact that they try to shut down discussions about racism and sexism show that their dedication is false. They are willing to compromise on social justice to get a form of economic populism that is, in fact, another form of white populism.

These economic populists who religiously resurrect the ghost of MLK will often misuse his words and activism to promote a colorblind lie. They will say that MLK was fighting for EVERYONE when he assisted with the Sanitation Workers’ strike immediately before his death. They will say he was working to improve working conditions and pay for ALL AMERICANS. This is also false. The ‘I am a man’ campaign was something he had hoped would lead to a national coalition, a movement for economic AND social justice. Not only that, those sanitation workers were black men who were fighting for better conditions, to be treated on par with WHITE MEN.

They will also use his words on white moderates to attack Democrats, even black Democrats, for not being ‘progressive’ enough on economics. MLK was not simply writing a jeremiad on white fiscal moderates who were too timid to fight for far left economics. He was also talking about RACIAL MODERATES. Those who want to tell the oppressed or discriminated against to ‘wait’ for justice. They were talking about those who will attack the fight of subaltern groups and attempt to bargain away their rights. Those who he was discussing resemble the Sanders revolution of today. Those who want to silence the victims.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

For Sanders and his revolution to be taken seriously as a revolution, they need to address the fact that a revolution that does not speak to the concerns of those who are the most oppressed, is no revolution at all.