Posted on April 1, 2020

I Worked for Bernie in 2016. Here’s Why Black Voters Aren’t Feeling the Bern in 2020

Marcus Ferrell, The Grio, March 31, 2020


I was working as Bernie Sanders’ 2016 national Black outreach director. One morning while doing early outreach in South Carolina my Facebook page blew up. I was pinged in messages that said, “Bernie Sanders does not support reparations.”


Here I am in the land of Gullah/Geechee Black folks who know exactly where their enslaved ancestors worked, and my candidate, who is mostly unknown, goes on camera and says that? {snip}

I sent an email to the campaign leadership asking exactly what are we thinking? This lacks tactical savvy! There was zero response from any of them. Right after we got past Black Lives Matter protests, this was the message from the campaign? I was in for a long road and, somehow, I needed to get through to Bernie on this issue. That never happened. (He has since acknowledged that if Congress passes a study of reparations bill he would sign it.)

I think about that day a lot. If Bernie had ever come out for reparations that day there would have been “Reparations Now” T-shirts on college campuses across the nation. {snip}

Black voters could benefit from what the senator is fighting for. Black people have one of the highest rates of unemployment, hypertension, and infant mortality rates. These would be addressed by his Medicare for All and Federal Jobs guarantee. We just needed him to take his message to Black media and explain how it would help the Black community in ways the current system does not.

The hot take on Bernie is that he was too risky for Black voters. Meanwhile the patriarchal progressive Bernie zealot types believe that Black folks are uninformed voters that already have blind loyalty to any neoliberal candidate associated with the Democratic Party.


The assertion that Black voters are risk-averse is about as correct as saying Hillary won the primary election in 2008. {snip}


Black and indigenous people are the original progressive people of America. {snip}

Bernie simply didn’t do what was needed to take his energy, popularity, and email list to boost his Black support during the 2016 election and leading up to 2020. This is not an indictment against what he stands for, but rather the political will to implement necessary tactics to earn Black trust.

How are you going to peel Black support from a man who was the VP to America’s first Black president? Time, tactics and effort, that’s how. Bernie had 4 years to set up in Black communities and engage them with his message, organization, but he instead chose to do the same thing — only to get the same result. It’s political insanity.


In the end, Bernie lost the Black vote when he was in the best position to get it.