Sanders loses popularity on social media


Photo credit: Madison Holmes

Whether you watched the Democratic debate held in Flint, Michigan, on Sunday night or not, simply scrolling on any social media outlet would have informed you of the now infamous racial comment Bernie Sanders made during the debate. His comment received an intense amount of backlash on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., from Clinton and anti-Sanders supporters.

When asked about his racial blind spots, Bernie Sanders responded saying, “When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto, you don’t know what it’s like to be poor.” Immediately, viewers took to social media questioning what exactly Sanders meant by this comment.

While I don’t think Sanders meant to be racially insensitive or ignorant with this comment at all, I do find the comment itself to be an inappropriate mistake that was made during a national debate, something which Sanders should have taken with more consideration. He surely didn’t gain much ground with black voters (something he had been struggling with already), and instead insulted many African Americans.

I agree with many of the comments that Clinton supporters posted online, and I think this comment leads to a lot of generalizations that are both ignorant and false. With Sanders stating that white people don’t understand life in the ghetto or life being poor, it seems as if he’s hinting that the ghetto is only for black Americans, or that all black people can identify with a life of low income. Statistical evidence even proves this false – nearly 74 percent of black Americans are not poor.

It was a poor move on Sanders’ part to open his mouth and make a remark such as this, which fueled quite the fire on Twitter. Unfortunately, attention surrounding his comment wasn’t positive Sunday night, and I think he could have really deterred voters who are incredibly racially sensitive (which are many people). Even celebrities took to Twitter, such as journalist for MSNBC Joy Reid, whose tweets reflected much of the attitudes (including my own) about Sanders’ statement. Perez Hilton also posted a tweet blatantly stating that Sanders’ words “won’t be winning him any non-white voters.”

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While I do understand the point Sanders was trying to make, which he said himself was that “many white people are not aware of the kinds of pressures and kind of police oppression that sometimes takes place within the African-American community.” This is a statement that I agree with. However, I don’t think it justifies his decision to make the mistake of generalizing such a large portion of the population.

As a politician and presidential candidate, every single word you say is crucially important and potentially dire to your campaign. Because of this, why would Sanders think it wise to go on national television and say to America that if you’re white you know nothing about “being poor”? Of course he was going to receive negative backlash from that – it was only to be expected.

I hope for the sake of his campaign Sanders realizes that he can’t and shouldn’t make such strong racial statements without the proper backing. Otherwise he’s going to continue to lose more ground with African-American voters and create even more of a negative opinion from people who are already angered by his words at the Michigan debate.

Emma Vidak-Benjamin can be reached at [email protected] or @gnarlyemma on Twitter.