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The Value of Protest


The Value of Protest

Tim DeChristopher

As a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, my first reaction to hearing about Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest at Netroots Nation was disappointment. This looks bad, I thought. Bad for Bernie, who is the only presidential candidate with any chance of challenging structural injustice. And bad for Black Lives Matter, who could easily be interpreted as shutting down progressive discussions about immigration and economic inequality to make people focus on their priorities. I’ve had my share of mistakes during protests, as have all the activists I respect most, so I certainly had some sym


This was all very well said. I’ve often said for awhile now that racism went from being overtly stated to being etched on the insides of people’s skulls. Racism today cannot be dealt with on a systematic/institutional level because that ignores and distracts attention away from the individuals who are perpetrating racism. The systematic/institutional level of racism was dealt with in 60s to greater or lesser effect. Nowadays, those individuals insisting on being racist need to be spanked individually. That’s how I see it anyway.


That’ll teach Bernie’ll so that the next time he makes an arrest that he’ll know the world will be watching and he … Oh wait a moment? Did Bernie have something specifically to do with that terrible thing in Texas? Why do so many people take cheap shots at Bernie but let Hillary and the Republican candidates slide? Is it because the one candidate that is most open to ordinary people doesn’t shut them out like others would. So he then has to pay a penalty while they do not?

What does disrupting Bernie have to do with what happened in Texas? I think it cowardly to target an innocent person who has absolutely no connection to the crime or even the state. Moreover he is the candidate most concerned with the poor, working poor and in particular the role that race plays in being poor. So how does this safe protest show that black lives matter in any way? It cost nothing to anyone except Bernie.

What connection does Bernie have whatsoever to the unfortunate and criminal death of this young woman? Was this some courageous protest in front of the police station? Or a protest targeting the complacent news media who downplay her death? Or even a protest in front of all the candidates’ headquarters which would have at least conveyed the message that all politicians should be aware of the public’s anger? That would have been meaningful but targeting Bernie looks like little more than a safe and easy cheap shot focusing on the one candidate that will help change the glaring errors in our system more than will any of the others.

To my mind this was not courageous protest - this one was too easy too safe - this one was a sure thing - a big smile and a photo moment selfie actually.

And if you don’t believe me about the cheap shots being targeted by supposedly progressive people/media then explain what relevance does this author see in mentioning that Burlington Vt. is a mostly white city? What does that have to do with Texas? Bernie has no other connection to police except in his home state capitol and probably little of that in general. Does this author feel Bernie should explain Burlington’s role in the death of Ms. Bland? This author takes cheap shots too.

Why does Bernie alone have to be attacked at all about this?is author takes cheap shots too. Aside from the crime of being white exactly why does Bernie have to answer for something he had nothing to do with? Chants of say her name make no sense except to focus anger at Bernie as if he had actually done something and was trying to avoid facing it? Did Bernie not have a prepared statement on hand to better explain his role in the death of Ms. Bland? Well why not? All white people are the same it seems and even the innocent are to blame for what the racists do?

People of conscience support the innocent in prisons and support protests about these innocent people dying in police custody or at police hands. Maybe they might stand up for the innocent this time as well. Bernie is nor perfect nor will he be a perfect president but he tries (he isn’t a dictator or king to have his every wish be a command either.) He tries to do good and always has, he deserved better from people than being an easy target.

Bernie was not responsible nor connected to Ms. Bland’s death in any way yet he took the hit while on the campaign trail. He was made to look bad for no reason. Yes Bernie is white. Guess what… many progressives are.


It’s wonderful to see Tim De Christopher on Commondreams.

This man is an astute leader since he walked his talk and paid the price. And this insight is powerful and deserves repeating:

“But that would have required people like me and Bernie Sanders to really see and listen to these people, which was exactly the problem. Part of the point is that the lived experience of black women is excluded from the public discourse. It’s never going to be their turn to have their voices heard, so they have to create the opportunities to make their voices heard.”


Thank you. When all is said and done, Bernie’s fatal flaw is being Bernie, a man with a biography of progressive activism going back decades. Strange as it sounds, but I’ve been reading that his past doesn’t mean anything. Some of the tweets out there are truly frightening, what exactly is to be accomplished by shouting Bernie down escapes me.


How naïve can you get? Individuals take their cues from institutions. The martial uptick in the U.S. empire’s foreign and domestic policies gives macho cops a pass. And just as armies typically attack nations that cannot defend themselves (a coward’s errand if ever there was one), it’s easy for cops to take their wrath out on the Black (mostly powerless within the framework of a covertly racist society) community.

Another item is that right wing radio uses the “blame-the-victim” meme as a constant. In this way, it’s always the kid struck down who “deserves” that fate; or the young woman raped who “should not have been where she was,” etc. This is a messaging system that applauds bullying behavior or the right of the dominator TO dominate.

And as people grow in levels of angst from rising prices and diminished wages, and as–global warming indicators show–the HEAT is increasingly ON, more tempers will flare. That’s when the skinny kid who never measured up within the male baboon hierarchies picks up a gun and lets loose on a crowd at a church, movie theater, or school. And this behavior is becoming so routine that it erupts just about once a week currently.

To take from all this that “individuals insist on being racist and need to be spanked individually” is the heart of superficial analysis, if it could be termed that.

Any meme that focuses on the individual is preferred by Right Wing Libertarians since their idea of freedom is placing no constraints on bloodthirsty businessmen. So long as blame can be attached (or attributed) to the individual, no institution (neither institutional forms of sexism, racism, classism) need be examined or heaven forbade, radically altered to come into accord with ideals like genuine liberty for all, justice for all, and equal rights for all.


DeChristopher makes some strong points, and I agree that Bernie needs to work with the moment, and develop a stronger relationship with Black Lives Matters. What concerns me about the protest remains, however. There is a need for dialogue about race, everyone agrees. But the progressives who are most open to that dialogue find themselves subject to attack, not for speaking out, but for speaking out in the wrong way. That is very intimidating. For perspective, I am a 62 year old white female progressive living in South Carolina which has had a lot of experience in this area, notably recently. I was surprised (pleasantly) by the surge of enthusiasm for taking down the Confederate flag. Huge groups of majority whites showed up for every rally to bring it down and sang nah nah nah nah hey hey hey goodbye when it came down. This was not posturing, this was a cathartic release. Of what? People who have wanted that flag down for years were intimidated to say so for years. The obvious intimidators, and very real ones, were the neo Confederates. An unrecognized set of intimidators were the ones who questioned the motives of those calling for the flag to come down–I read the tweets of people claiming whites were suddenly pretending to “love the Negro”. We cannot have a dialogue when people are afraid to speak.


As time passes, and I have had time to reflect on this incident, things are getting curiouser and curiouser. It is taking on a life of its own as the great Bernie putdown. Ironically, for the good people of BLM, it is the put down that is getting the headlines, this article is a perfect example. I believe it s going to do significant damage to the Sanders campaign. Young blacks and whites, on tweets, are caricaturing Bernie as a grumpy old race insensitve white man. On several “liberal” sites the editors are choosing the most unflattering photos of Bernie. What a country, eh? Guess what? Gerorge McGovern was from South Dakota, oh dear, Mr. DeChristopher.


That is why I called it a cheap shot at the one candidate that would try to do something constructive out of all of them.


Alas, so true, I sit here shaking my head, that’s what I am reduced to.


Um Sioux, as much as I try to like you…
When was the last time you saw a “Colored People Only” sign?
That’s what I’m pointing out. That’s what you obviously missed in my statement.
Naive? Me? Ok, So, Sioux, how blind and lacking in insight can YOU possibly be?


Thanks much for the link to Bernie’s personal and consistently progressive stand on the issues dating back decades. People will do anything to make themselves ‘exist’ in the media-sphere where a by line under a blog or a photo selfie protest even if misplaced or unwarranted still counts as media exposure. They take cheap shots at Bernie and it doesn’t bode well. Martin Luther King these people are not. Integrity seems lost in the mix or maybe drowned out by the lure of ‘glitter’(the momentary flush of ersatz fame?).


Oh, I think I am going to disagree here. I would argue that Bernie has placed himself squarely center and front as the people’s candidate, and some of the people who have suffered the most historically stood up and said “We matter too.” And Bernie just fumbled the ball because, while he may sincerely want to include their voice, he simply did not. It’s early in the campaign, he can always rectify. The part the author omitted was the fact that Bernie came back and had an humble, “seek first to understand” conversation with these activists. Good for him.


I agree, Nancy. I personally am not big, muscled, and willing to assault someone with intent just because of my belief system. It takes a group of like minded people to counter to primitive tactics and attempts to intimidate through violence.


Predictably, SR, you coat your comments with a thick sludge of toxic personal attacks. So it becomes ever more difficult to take you seriously. I am at the point of avoiding your posts altogether.


HisStory - I empathize … I’m too old to do much else. Lol. But I was there back when and knew what it took and what it takes. Pretending that Bernie is the target is exactly what it looks like… a cheap shot by people who get all angry and boisterous when it is safe and easy but then talk calmly and rationalize that they 'just want to bring attention to the issue and don’t want trouble when it looks hard and risky.

Is this all that her death really means to them to ‘protest’ someone who is on their side but avoid doing the same protesting when they could get arrested or what have you at Republican rallies or even Hillary’s?

We may shake our heads but then look at the state of our planet and you then have to wonder… what the hell happened?

We dropped the ball and the succeeding generation is picking it up again but they don’t have what we felt. We saw the sit ins at lunch counters and fire houses turned on peaceful marchers, we saw Kent State and self immolations of buddhist priests on city streets, we saw courage and bravery in action …while these young people mainly see reality online and then text about it.

They will have to learn new lessons on their own I think. The lessons we learned didn’t carry over to them. It isn’t so much a generation gap… call it a protest gap instead? We got too old and the protesters got too young. They’ll find their way… maybe? I hope they do. They see the flimsiness of photo selfie media spots and online instal-fame etc… It was rare back when that we got a piece in the papers or a photo printed. They see thousands everyday.

They’ll have to find a new way but even then a cheap shot is what it is. They’d shoot themselves in the foot and say it was protesting shoddy boot manufacturers.


Yes, yes, yes.


Thank you for the link.


Maybe the protesters were thinking about raising the status of Ben Carson, Herman Caine, and Condi Rice.


Thank you for that information ncycat. I hadn’t read about that follow up.

Yes, that was an excellent lesson for Bernie, and I am both glad that Tim deChristopher is back in his groove, and that he recognizes that perhaps he has some racist issues of his own to sort out. We all do. Even black people. I believe we have to address the issue both ways…individually AND systemically. There’s nothing like a “living” example, to concretize a systemic problem.