John Lewis was asked about Bernie Sanders Civil Rights bona fides Thursday and the Selma legend channeled his inner Mariah Carey and was very much “I don’t know her.” Well, actually he said, “I never saw him. I never met him,” and thus the questioning of Bernie Sanders Civil Rights work as a college student began. I wrote a piece about it for The Root breaking down how many Lewis’ incredulousness has something to do with the throngs of white people over the age of 60 who swear they marched with MLK.
Or maybe he was just being shady. Could be a little of both!
This is the conceit Sanders is up against. “I supported the civil rights movement in the 1960s” is up there with saying, “I have a black friend” and “I don’t see color” to black people. As in, it sounds like bulls–t. Black people would hope you supported the civil rights movement (I mean, really) and that you would have “a black friend” if you claim to be any sort of liberal or progressive who is anti-racism, but what have you done for black people lately? These are bare-minimum things. And stop saying you don’t see color! Everyone sees color. How else would you know your black friends were black?
Lewis, who was there and did march and did organize and did get beat about the head for freedom, probably has heard the many stories of those who were “there” whom he does not recall being “there.” So his shade on Sanders is probably rooted in that incredulity. It’s not that he doesn’t believe, but, as the late, great Whitney Houston used to say, “I wanna see the receipts.”
Sanders, who is garnering black support of late for his economic policies, is an attractive candidate for black America, but his interest in black America post the civil rights movement is relatively recent. He’s the senator from Vermont, after all. It’s not like he had to worry about the black vote there, so, of course he hasn’t met with the CBC much. Of course, before running for president, he didn’t talk about race. Of course, there is this whiff about him where it seems like Sanders just discovered black people a few months ago when he realized Democrats need upward of 90 percent of the black vote to keep the White House.