Bernie and “Minorities
Posted on August 7, 2015 by LouDo we still use the term “minorities” when referring to African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, etc. or is that reference only appropriate when we speak, for example, of a city or a state that is “majority minority?”
I’m not sure but I did sense something awkward and out-of-place last month when Bernie Sanders spoke about “minorities” to the Urban League. I wondered if this has anything to do with the fact that 95 percent of the residents of his home state are white. Clearly, Sanders is brilliant at communicating with the poorest Vermonters but is less comfortable talking in racial terms.
His economic class-based rhetoric doesn’t quite square with race-based identity issues such as Black Lives Matter. His speeches emphasize his belief that elites exploit racial divisions as a way to divide and distract us.
Vermont has the lowest percentage of people of color of any state. That fact can be embarrassing for those in the state who align politically with progressive American notions of inclusion and diversity.
But there’s no hypocrisy here. Economics and geography drive the demographics of this tiny, rural, landlocked state.
Vermont’s egalitarian tradition and community-based political culture have enabled the state’s democratic impulse, creating the space for Bernie Sanders.
My reasons for leaving Vermont for L.A. in the early 80s were circumstantial and complicated. I moved to and settled into a region that’s remarkably expansive, and I’ve been impressed by the progress – however incremental – made by Southern California’s diverse communities and organized interests.
Vermont – in its way – has made substantial progress, too and Sanders deserves credit. He’s part of a very sophisticated activist network up and down the state which plays a decisive role in local and state politics and government. Vermont may be small and white but it is not parochial.
Sanders, an ex-New Yorker who spends lots of time in D.C., understands the pernicious nature of racism. He just needs more practice talking about it.