Bernie Sanders’ street cred for fighting systemic racism
On Tuesday, In These Times published footage from the film “’63 Boycott,” which chronicled a Chicago Public School Boycott aimed at protesting racist education and housing policies, showing what appeared to be a young Bernie Sanders being arrested for engaging in civil disobedience. A Chicago Tribune article from the period seemed to verify that Sanders was indeed at the protest and charged with resisting arrest, and Thursday night at a Democratic town hall, the candidate confirmed as much.
“I was arrested when I was 22 years old at the University of Chicago,” Sanders said. “You know what I was arrested for? Fighting segregation.”
The statement was part of a response to a Hillary Clinton supporter’s question concerning the candidate’s tendency to often treat racial concerns as though they were solely economic in nature. It’s a criticism that has been lobbed at the Vermont senator since he announced his presidential candidacy, and has been turned into one of Clinton’s talking points as he’s closed the support gap between their campaigns. However, in the last few months, it’s resulted in the senator showcasing his bonafides when it comes to combatting racial inequality as he reaches out to the minority voters he desperately needs to win the primary, and who were once all but expected to largely support his opponent.
As Clinton tries to paint Sanders as a latecomer to civil rights, she would do well to hope that people don’t start highlighting what she was up to in her youth. Granted, it would be unfair to highlight her self-identifying as a “Goldwater girl” in high school — we all think and do a lot of dumb stuff as ninth graders, even if it’s not supporting someone who voted in favor of segregation — but no more unfair than intimating that Sanders only cares about fighting racism now that he’s running for president. He’s got the (arrest) record to prove otherwise. Now if only he would move away from his go-to line about “marching with Dr. King.”