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Podcast: Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter & Problem of Identity Politics

Two Black Lives Matter activists interrupted a Saturday afternoon rally in Seattle, where Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, was scheduled to speak. It was a rally held to celebrate the anniversary of Social Security and the need to expand social welfare programs.

The activists took the stage and grabbed the microphone. Some people attending the rally booed, urged police to remove them with a Taser, and called for the activists to be arrested by police. Meanwhile, organizers allowed the activists to criticize Sanders, condemn “white supremacist liberalism,” and honor Michael Brown, who was gunned down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson one year ago today.

While this week’s episode of the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast was recorded before this happened, it just so happens the episode we recorded was about this issue of Bernie Sanders, the Black Lives Matter movement, and solidarity organizing.

Douglas Williams, a writer at TheSouthLawn.org, a third-generation organizer, and a doctoral student at Wayne State University in Detroit, is our guest this week. We talk to him about Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, and the critique of Bernie Sanders not talking about race enough. He discusses how Democratic presidential candidates have used the “Black Lives Matter” mantra to make their campaigns relevant.

We highlight Bernie Sanders’ record in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a group which played a key role in the civil rights movement. We also talk about the problems the movement has with solidarity organizing and the role of white “allies” in organizing against institutional racism.

Our conversation spans the full hour, which is a necessary length of time to unpack and dig in to the identity politics, which seems to be impacting the ability of activists to engage in solidarity organizing.

It is our hope this episode will provoke more debate about organizing against institutional racism in the United States, and that you will not mistake this discussion for an attempt by us to lead a discussion but rather recognize it as an effort to agitate and fuel a critical conversation.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way by clicking on the player. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."