Throughout the 2016 election season, one narrative has played out repeatedly — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders can’t relate to Black voters. Larry David, impersonating Sanders, even poked fun at it during aSaturday Night Live skit, saying his “crush” was “every Black person in America.”
Sanders does have strong support among largely white, middle-class voters, a fact that is highlighted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s backing from many African-Americans. When Sanders won caucuses in Washington state, Hawaii, and Alaska last weekend, some news organizations reported his wins as being partly due to the states’ small Black populations. That didn’t sit well with people of color who support Sanders’ presidential campaign — and some took to Twitter to say so.
Leslie Lee III, a Sanders supporter who is Black, created the hashtag #BernieMadeMeWhite in what he told Refinery29 was a bid to bring progressives of all races together in their discussion of the election.
“There’s a lot more to diversity than just African-Americans, and that is an erasure that’s happening in this election, where everyone but the Black vote in the South of people over 40 has basically been ignored by the media,” Lee said. He added that when the hashtag started trending on Twitter, it was used by Asian-American, Hispanic-American, and Native American people who support Sanders.
Zaira Livier, founder of Latinas for Bernie, said that the notion Sanders doesn’t resonate with voters of color “is a myth created purposely to not only discredit his campaign but to be used as a tool to deter voters.”
“We are here, we are Brown, we support Bernie, and we aren’t going anywhere,” Livier said
But while #BernieMadeMeWhite sparked political dialogue (and jokes) among Bernie supporters, others didn’t respond as well to the hashtag. Saad Chaudry, a Muslim-American who tweeted using the hashtag, said that he received a number of racist and threatening images and tweets after posting a photo of his family, who voted for Sanders. “Muslims have become used to messages like this online, it’s commonplace,” Chaudry said
Similarly, Janeth Davidson, a Sanders supporter who lives in Texas, told Refinery29 that after she tweeted her support for Bernie with the hashtag, she’s been the recipient of online harassment. “Since tweeting #BernieMadeMeWhite, I have been harassed by people telling me to go back to my country,”
The hashtag has struck a chord with many Sanders supporters who are frustrated with being reduced to exit poll numbers or categorized as “Bernie Bros,”
“I saw a lot of other Bernie supporters who were frustrated at the narrative that basically, Bernie Sanders not just doesn’t win the Black vote, but can’t connect… with minorities in general. And it basically erases us and the reasons why we support him. We’re reduced to, basically, a few exit poll numbers.”