Others have written thoughtful reflections on what this protest meant for challenging white privilege. The value for me personally was in what the protest exposed in Bernie Sanders, and by extension, myself. When asked directly about white supremacy and police violence against people of color, Sanders responded by talking about fixing the economic system and providing more jobs. He didn’t explicitly connect unemployment with getting killed by police, but the implication was that if a black person doesn’t have a job, we can pretty well expect that he’ll get gunned down by a cop. Bernie was focused on Big Ideas, and derailing that to talk about one woman, or even one certain segment of the population, seemed like a frustrating distraction.
The thing is, this specific protest was in honor of Sandra Bland, who had a job when she was arrested for not using a turn signal and died in custody. In fact, she moved to Texas for her job, but her pursuit of a career didn’t save her. On the other hand, the 31% of unemployed white high school graduates mentioned by Sanders don’t get killed by police at anywhere near the rate of the 51% of unemployed black high school graduates. In retrospect, Bernie’s response to the BLM disruption looks like an exercise in avoiding the obvious fact that race matters.