Sanders Rallies To #BlackLivesMatters Cause With Radical Plan To Fight Racial Inequality

Just one day after Black Lives Matter protestors stormed the stage at a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle, Washington, the Democratic presidential candidate is letting the movement know he has heard their cries and plans to do something about it. On Sunday, Sanders revealed his sweeping plans to fight racial inequality if he is elected president.

Sanders posted his plans for combating the ever-growing problem of racism in America on his website. He also addressed it at a rally in Portland, Oregon that drew 20,000 people, his biggest crowd yet.

The senator says there are four different types of violence that “black and brown Americans” are victims of: economic, legal, physical and political. He says the physical violence comes from the police and extremists like Dylann Roof (the Charleston church shooter):

“We should not fool ourselves into thinking that this violence only affects those whose names have appeared on TV or in the newspaper. African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police….This violence [by extremists] fills us with outrage, disgust, and a deep, deep sadness. Today in America, if you are black, you can be killed for getting a pack of Skittles during a basketball game.”

It’s true that not only do African-Americans and Latinos have to deal with systematic racism by police officers, but they are also victims of right-wing hate crimes perpetuated by white supremacists. Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice were killed by different types of people (one a cop, one an average run-of-the-mill racist) but the reason they were murdered is the same: racism.

Senator Sanders explains what he would do to combat physical violence:

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  • demilitarize the police
  • invest in community policing
  • promote diversity in police forces to reflect the communities they serve
  • listen to activists, like Blake Lives Matter and implement changes they suggest
  • federally fund body cameras
  • aggressively investigate and prosecute violent, racist police officers
  • crack down on hate groups
  • require police to release data on every shooting or death in custody
  • retrain officers to de-escalate situations
  • give federal funds to departments that implement change/ slash funding for those that don’t

He then goes on to explain what he is going to do to fight racism on the political front. Even though minorities were granted the right to vote during the Civil Rights Movement, the right-wing has been chipping away at those rights for years. The implement voter suppression laws that target minority communities constantly, whether it is gerrymandering, voter ID laws, or limiting the number of voting precincts in their communities.

Sanders says that he will fight political violence in these ways:

  • restore voting rights to felons
  • restore the Voting Rights Act and expand it
  • make Election Day a federal holiday
  • expand early voting to nights and weekends
  • register every 18-year-old American automatically
  • end voter purges
  • expand voting precincts and staff to prevent long waits

In addition to political and physical violence, minorities face legal violence at every level of the justice system. There is no place white privilege is more apparent than within the legal system. African-Americans are more likely to go to prison, their terms are often longer, mandatory-minimum sentences target them, and a number of other things.

“Millions of lives have been destroyed because people are in jail for nonviolent crimes. For decades, we have been engaged in a failed “War on Drugs” with racially-biased mandatory minimums that punish people of color unfairly.

It is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy. This must change…If current trends continue, one in four black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during their lifetime.”

Sanders explained that if we want to fight this discrimination we must:

  • ban for-profit prisons
  • eliminate mandatory minumums and the “War on Drugs”
  • invest in treatment and mental health services
  • boost funding for programs that help ex-prisoners rebuild their lives

Finally, the senator addressed the economic violence minorities face. We all know that African-American communities are some of the poorest communities in the country. They are often overlooked when school funding is doled out and without proper education their economic mobility is stunted. America has built a system that makes it almost impossible for minorities to climb the economic ladder and Sanders acknowledges that:

“In addition to the physical violence faced by too many in our country we need look at the lives of black children and address a few other difficult facts. Black children, who make up just 18 percent of preschoolers, account for 48 percent of all out-of-school suspensions before kindergarten. We are failing our black children before kindergarten….

Communities of color also face the violence of economic deprivation. Let’s be frank: neighborhoods like those in west Baltimore, where Freddie Gray resided, suffer the most. However, the problem of economic immobility isn’t just a problem for young men like Freddie Gray. It has become a problem for millions of Americans who, despite hard-work and the will to get ahead, can spend their entire lives struggling to survive on the economic treadmill.”

To combat these economic injustices Sanders says we must:

  • make public universities tuition free
  • invest $5.5 billion to give young minorities who face high unemployment rates the opportunities for employment
  • address pay equity for women
  • prevent employment discrimination based on criminal history
  • invest in childcare

Many people thought that Bernie Sanders was not listening to activists within the Black Lives Matter movement, especially after Saturday. However, he has demonstrated that not only has he heard the cries from a community that is battered and bruised, but he plans on doing something about it if he is elected. This is exactly the kind of response that we hoped to hear from him.

Featured image via Gage Skidmore