Posted on February 3, 2021

Did Bernie’s Inauguration Outfit Epitomize ‘White Privilege’? A San Francisco Teacher Thinks So.

David Knowles, Yahoo, February 3, 2021

Within hours of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Internet was consumed by images of Sen. Bernie Sanders sitting, stone-faced, bundled against the cold in a parka and colorful mittens. The meme turned into a fundraising bonanza for nonprofits and a symbol of a new administration getting down to business, as a contrast to the carefully curated image cultivated by its predecessor.

Who could possibly find fault with that?

Well, one person at least, a public high school teacher in San Francisco named Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, who wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle that appeared on Sunday and quickly went viral. Seyer-Ochi’s objection was to the “privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege” symbolized by Sanders’s choice of a relatively casual Burton snowboarding jacket and repurposed wool mittens.

Seyer-Ochi addressed the topic with her students, who she said were also upset by what they saw as the implicit message being delivered by Sanders’s choice of outerwear.

“What did they see? They saw a white man in a puffy jacket and huge mittens, distant not only in his social distancing, but in his demeanor and attire,” Seyer-Ochi wrote, adding, “What did I see? What did I think my students should see? A wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged white man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens.

“I don’t know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie.”

Prior to the inauguration, Seyer-Ochi had also had her students analyze images from the Jan. 6 riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol.

“This,” she told her students about the images from that day, “is white supremacy, this is white privilege. It can be hard to pinpoint, but when we see, it, we know it.”

“I mean in no way to overstate the parallels. Sen. Sanders is no white supremacist insurrectionist. But he manifests privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege, in ways that my students could see and feel,” Seyer-Ochi wrote.


Seyer-Ochi’s piece was the most read at on Sunday, and the responses to it on social media were less than favorable.