1. One person who hasn’t commented on the big-deal Black Lives Matter action at Saturday’s Bernie Sanders event so far is city council member Kshama Sawant. Given that Sawant is a fellow elected socialist who had attached her name to Sanders’s swing through Seattle—and who was also on the bill at Westlake (and got to speak herself)—it’s odd that we haven’t heard from her on the hot topic; she’s typically front and center with her POV.
As everyone on the planet now knows, two Black Lives Matter activists, Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford, commandeered the stage at Westlake on Saturday to protest Sanders’s alleged inattention to race, preventing Sanders from speaking.
When I asked Sawant’s campaign manager, Philip Locker, yesterday if Sawant wanted to comment, he told me he was on vacation. When I contacted city hall, I was told simply that Sawant was proud of the speech she’d given on Saturday about Social Security and Medicare (the Westlake rally was a celebration of those two programs) and her office forwarded me a copy of that speech, which begins:
Sisters and Brothers,
It is no accident that the victories on Social Security in the 1930s and Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s took place during times of great, historic movements of the working class and youth, many of whom were people of color.
In 1935, when Social Security was passed, workers across America were on strike for a better life. They fought to unionize through sit-down strikes. They took over and occupied their factories, and refused to give them back until their unions were won and their demands met.
It was these American workers, this radical labor movement, that won Social Security. Contrary to the popular myth, it was not handed to them by the benevolence of the ruling elite headed by FDR. In fact, Roosevelt had run for office in 1932 on a promise of fiscal conservatism—of shrinking social programs, not expanding them.
The workers movement that won the New Deal was led by socialists and was made up of workers influenced by socialist ideas.
I also put the question about Saturday’s brouhaha (which has white liberals tied in knots) to Sawant’s opponent in this year’s city council race, Pamela Banks, the head of the Seattle Urban League.
Here’s what Banks, who's African American, told Fizz:
"I understand the anger and frustration that lead Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford to take the stage at Saturday’s Bernie Sanders rally, and applaud their actions. The inconvenient truth is that we have a racial problem in America that needs to be confronted. We can argue about whether hijacking a progressive rally on important policy issues like Social Security is the most opportune platform, but given the lack of open, honest opportunities for dialogue in this country, I don’t blame them one bit.
"Nor do I blame Bernie Sanders, or the crowd of progressive Seattleites who would have preferred to hear from Sanders than local activists. The other sad truth: We have too few platforms in a country dominated by corporate media and disaggregated (yet democratic) blogs to truly speak out and speak truth.
"Progressives and Democrats are not afraid to open the mic—nor should they be. I am a proud Democrat because I believe it is the party of inclusiveness and honesty on racial issues (some frame everything as class struggle, but let’s get real—race and class disparity go hand in hand).
"Conservatives and Republicans? Not so much. Did anyone notice that Marco Rubio was here raising money for his presidential run last week? No rallies, no opportunities to gain press and awareness for Black Lives Matter—or any of the lives that conservatives seek to marginalize (women, youth, Latino…)
"I have spent my entire career, over 30 years, working to eliminate racial profiling, secure access to good jobs and affordable housing, and generally improve the lives of my black friends, relatives and neighbors.
"Black lives matter. This isn’t a slogan. It isn’t a hashtag. It isn’t a reaction to recent events. It is a simple truth, one that I have been fighting to communicate my entire life as a woman of color, the mother of a Black son in Seattle’s Central District, and as president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country. In my life and career, I have found action more valuable than words, and consensus more powerful than accusations.
"But change has come too slowly. Too slowly to save Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland or the untold others like them. It’s unimaginable that these deaths and so many like them would not bubble into the anger we witnessed on Saturday. Some were shocked, some applauded, and newspapers raced to create a narrative around the protest and crowd reaction. But whether you cheered or booed on Saturday, we all agree that racism has no place in our society. What matters is not what we did, but what we do next.
"I am excited to see who steps up to the mic. Only through honesty will we address inequity."
2. Anecdote: I was at an event last night and ended up at a table with North Seattle city council candidate Debora Juarez. The conversation, due to the news about Jimmy Carter's cancer diagnosis, turned to cocktail party chatter about the best and worst presidents. Sarcastically mocking the whole world's opinion, someone else at the table did the whole, "Jimmy Carter? Oh, worst president ever."
I turned to Juarez and said, "Nope, worst president ever?" And without skipping a beat, Juarez proclaimed: "Ronald Reagan." She went on to say Reagan's cuts to higher education funding "ruined my life."