“I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.”
On Saturday Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford interrupted Bernie Sanders at a rally in Seattle. As he prepared to take the mic the women jumped on the stage and demanded the right to speak. Sanders ceded the stage to the women. Marissa went on to give a passionate speech about the Black Lives Matter movement. She said she wanted to talk about how racist Seattle is but some in the crowd had already done that for her with their jeers and screams of, “arrest them.” Really? Arrest them?!! With EVERYTHING going on right now people actually called for the arrest of these two women for grabbing the mic at a rally. Arrest them? How positively clueless.
I watched the internet explode. A day that was supposed to be filled with remembrances and lessons learned from the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson was completely derailed by a bevy of clueless allies who didn’t get it and a gaggle of scared Black people who wanted these women to be more polite. There were copious tears for Bernie. “He’s been so good to us.” “He is the only candidate who cares about us and our issues.” “Why attack an ally?” And my personal favorite, “Bernie must have been so frightened. It was like an assault.”
Here’s my take on things..
Bernie is the one constantly mentioning how he has fought for civil rights all of his life. I mean seriously, it should be part of his name if we counted the frequency with which he and his supporters use this as his claim to fame. The REASON Black people should vote for Bernie is that he cares about “our” issues. If this is true then he wouldn’t be so caught off guard by the passion in the two interruptions he has experienced. Sanders responded that he was, “especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no candidate who will fight harder than me.” (Quoted from here)
How can you fight when you won’t listen? How can you fight if you don’t understand the passion and yes the ANGER that we are feeling in this exact moment in time? An ally amplifies the voices of the people they are supporting. An ally uses their privilege to make sure that the voices of the people they are standing with are heard loud and clear. An ally is supposed to be a bridge to others who do NOT understand. Those people were there to hear Bernie. He could have done a number of things to earn his status as an ally. He did none. He ceded the stage. He didn’t share it.
Sanders wants us to see him as a civil rights warrior but war isn’t polite. We are fighting for our lives. If you want to appeal to us as a voting block by using your record as a civil rights crusader then you should not be this tone deaf. You should not be this divorced from the emotion propelling this fight to every stage in America. You should not run. You should not wag your finger. You should not expect us to be composed when we are being murdered in the streets. You should understand that there are a gamut of responses to injustice and not all of them are polite.
To those of you wondering why these women choose Sanders and not some other candidate I can’t answer with certainty. No one has interviewed these women. Shit, just finding their names was a struggle. I’d imagine it was because HE was in Seattle. It’s probably because he CLAIMS to be down with us. I’d posit it’s because they thought he would listen and care. I’d think it’s because he is being touted as an ally. But their reasons don’t even matter to me. Sanders is not my savior. He is a man running for the office of president in a country currently experiencing an internal conflict of epic proportions. He is the candidate everyone keeps telling us Black people is our best choice. He is the candidate who keeps highlighting his work on civil rights like a line on his resume.
Listen folks, I know Black anger is scary to a bunch of people. Shit, even some Black people are uncomfortable with it. I listen to our young people. A huge segement of them are FED up. They are angry. They are TIRED of asking politely for people to stop murdering us with impunity. They are tired of wondering who is going to be the next hashtag and they are ready to tear shit up. I worry for them. What I will not do is silence them. What I will not do is judge them. What I will not do is tell them to be safe. NONE of us are safe right now and we all know it. Respectability politics is bullshit.
Yesterday I saw so many white people claim they would no longer support Black Lives Matter because they were disgusted by the behavior of TWO Black women. Listen, if that was all it took to take you out of the fight for Black lives then you were never in it. You were NEVER with us. Yesterday I saw some Black people use words like “embarrassed” to express their feelings about these two women’s refusal to be silenced. If you are Black and you were embarrassed by two women willing to put their necks on the line to get a message to power I honestly have no clue what to even do with you. Do you honestly believe that Sanders is going to be our savior? Do you honestly believe that we should be GRATEFUL to those in power who pay lip service to believing that our LIVES actually fucking matter? Do you believe that so called allies using our fucking civil rights struggle as a resume entry don’t have to DO anything else? Man listen, all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk!
Oh and for those of you lamenting that, this is NOT the way to get change or to get a candidate to listen to your concerns…
This was Bernie Sanders’ website BEFORE Marissa and Mara stormed the stage.
And this is what it looked like after they spoke truth to power.
Here’s to warrior women. May we love them. May we support them. May we raise them. May we BE them!
Any war has to be fought on multiple fronts. These women chose theirs. Where and how are YOU fighting?