The Evolution of Bernie Sanders on Race

6 min readOct 16, 2015

Thinking about the Black Lives Matter interruptions in today’s civil society

Picture by AFGE. Via Flickr. Licensed under CC-by-2.0.

Bernie Sanders flip-flopped too, and that’s okay. People keep mentioning Hillary Clinton’s shifting on issues as a mark against her, but as she explains, this is only evidence that she is a person who responds to new information and develops their opinion, not a block of granite. Sanders, too, has shifted left on race issues and gun control in the past several months. This is a wonderful thing.

Bernie Sanders is a senator from a 95% white state. When he sees the racial struggles of the people of Ferguson, the Michael Browns, the Trayvon Martins, the Eric Garners, and the many others, he sees close parallels with the struggles of the Poor White in his state. The Poor White indeed face similar struggles in the face of a capitalist society, they are denied opportunity, are more likely to be victims of police brutality, and more likely to end up in jail.

It is thus sound and not at all unreasonable for Bernie Sanders to hold his initial belief: that fighting income inequality will be sufficient to address the racial issues in America.

Sanders, who has not been a leader on civil rights issues in Congress and at times suggested the root of racial problems was largely economics, has now wholeheartedly embraced the language and policy positions of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. — Perry Bacon Jr, MSNBC

The last most people have heard about Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders was probably in July and August where Bernie Sanders was interrupted at two events by Tia Oso, and by Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford.

The interruptions were widely met negatively, and some Black Lives Matter activists distanced themselves from these actions. These moments were all but forgotten in the following months, for many only remembered as a thorn in Black Lives Matter’s history. In reality, these interruptions were a turning point that got Sanders to engage with activists and, eventually, deliver a solid racial justice platform.

From their point of view, the activists were engaging in civil disobedience to make a point: while Sanders sympathizes with their cause abstractly, he doesn’t deeply understand their suffering. These activists, and many…


Software Engineer living in Brooklyn, NY. MIT Computer Science S.B. ’13, M.Eng. ‘14. From Amman, Jordan. Interested in politics, current affairs, and technology