Opinion: My Frustrations With Democratic Socialists And Their Bullshit
Opinions expressed in this article belong to the author alone.
The racial wealth gap (RWG) is vast. White households have maintained, for decades, a median wealth of more than $100,000 whereas Black household median wealth reached a zenith of approx. $17,000 around 2003 and is projected to fall to approx. $1200 in 2024 and to $0 in 2053. Progressives have elevated and deified Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders in the hopes that he’ll deliver democratic socialism to the masses with the belief that all will be remedied.
In 2016, I voted for Bernie in the Democratic presidential primaries. Democratic socialism resonated with me at the time and I thought such policies would benefit American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS). My, how things have changed in four years. Bernie is now vying for the 2020 presidency and I do not care to vote for him. Democratic socialists argue socialist-leaning policies are sufficient in addressing ADOS issues and concerns, and that’s factually incorrect.
ADOS is a distinct ethnic group that has inherited the cost of 246 years of American chattel slavery, reconstruction, Black Codes, convict leasing, Jim Crow, bombing of Black Wall Street, red summer 1919, redlining, crack epidemic of the ’80s, 1994 crime bill and countless other atrocities that have reduced ADOS to an economic bottom caste in America through repeated acts of domestic terror and stolen wealth and opportunity.
Only a political Black agenda centered on lineage-specific Reparations, cash-payouts included, can elevate ADOS from bottom caste. None of Bernie’s democratic socialist policies will prevent the absolute collapse of ADOS. And this is my frustration with democratic socialism: Bernie supporters are adamant that a class-based socialist agenda meet the needs of ADOS.
My online discussions with Bernie supporters reveal that they both insult my intelligence and are too blinded by democratic socialism to see that the extent of Bernie’s political agenda is not collective uplift for ADOS.
Let us go through democratic socialist talking points.
Sen Sanders wants to invest in Historically Black College & Universities (HBCUs)
The 2015 Educational Attainment in the United States census reports that approx. 20%, roughly one out of five, of the native-born Black American population has obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher. Despite the senator’s intention to invest in HBCUs it remains that ADOS don’t enroll in higher education — HBCUs or otherwise — in larger numbers. In a report titled What We Get Wrong About Closing The Racial Wealth Gap the authors state “ white households with a bachelor’s degree or post-graduate education (such as with a Ph.D., MD, and JD) are more than three times as wealthy as black households with the same degree attainment” and that “on average, a black household with a college-educated head has less wealth than a white family whose head did not even obtain a high school diploma”. Greater educational attainment does not close the RWG.
The complete title of Bernie’s HBCU initiative is “Supporting Historically Black Colleges & Universities and Minority Serving Institutions”. Minority serving institutions (MSIs) group HBCUs with Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and Asian American and Pacific Islander Institutions (AAPISIs) under the umbrella of vagueness and confusion that is the “minority” moniker.
Minorities and the ever vexing “people of color” (POC) category allow for ADOS to be completely ignored under the guise of minority uplift. Bernie’s HBCU policy initiative could theoretically invest heavily in AAPISIs and HSIs relative to HBCUs and Bernie would’ve fulfilled his campaign promise since MSIs were originally included and packaged with his HBCU initiative.
Sen Sanders has a racial justice initiative and intends to expunge past marijuana-related convictions
Bernie breaks his racial justice into five parts: voting rights and enfranchisement, criminal justice, environmental justice, healthcare disparities and economic justice. Despite ADOS being over-represented in all five aforementioned categories, the language jumps from relative specificity to the fuzziness of POC.
Under the environmental justice header, the senator cites a portion of an EPA report that reads “non-Whites tend to be burdened disproportionally to Whites” when that report clearly states that Blacks were exposed to 1.54 times more small pollution particles known as PM (particles no larger than 2.5 microns, that lodge in lung tissue) than the population at large. Poor people were exposed to 1.35 times more and all non-whites to 1.28 times more. Clearly race, not poverty, is the strongest predictor of exposure to health-threatening particulate matter. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a city that is 53.4% Black, is mentioned in Bernie’s environmental justice policy yet there is no specific policy explicitly stated to fix Flint’s pipes.
The senator’s economic justice is disorganized. Apparently, he believes that America is “morally bound to close the racial wealth divide” and that America needs to “start treating the racial wealth divide like the crisis it is” yet he offers no race-specific economic policies.
Regarding criminal justice and marijuana legalization, Bernie intends to end the war on drugs, expunge all past marijuana-related convictions and legalize marijuana in the first 100 days with executive action. Said set of policies sound fantastic — and I completely agree with record expunction — but they’re inadequate and a slap in the face. Bernie continued and exacerbated the war on drugs by voting for the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (The ’94 Crime Bill) that, among its many provisions, provided $12.5 billion in funding to states that agreed to “truth-in-sentencing laws” and created the three-strike provision that opened the gateway for life-sentences for non-violent drug possession, such as marijuana. Marijuana usage is statistically equal between white and Black America yet Black Americans are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. The ’94 Crime Bill gave ADOS mass incarceration that finished what Reagan’s H.R.5484 — Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 (100:1 crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity) started. And so, while I agree with expunging marijuana-related convictions, I don’t think Bernie should be applauded for doing the minimum to undo a problem he helped create.
Bernie has dodged accountability for his vote for the ’94 Crime Bill by citing Title IV, sec. 40001–40703 of the crime bill, Violence Against Women Act, as justification for his vote. That doesn’t make sense. How is passing a bill that exploded the prison population with ADOS men not a violent act against the women in their lives, their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters? And Bernie has demonstrated that he is more than capable of opposing a bill for a singular reason. Just recently, during the January Iowa democratic debate for 2020’s presidential election, he made it clear that he will “ not vote for a trade agreement that does not incorporate very, very strong principles to significantly lower fossil fuel emissions in the world”. He could’ve voted no in 1994 but he didn’t.
Bernie’s marijuana legalization is a massive financial giveaway to everyone but ADOS. The senator intends to “create a $20 billion grant program within the minority business development agency to provide grants to entrepreneurs of color” and will use marijuana revenue to “create a $10 billion grant program to focus on businesses that are at least 51% owned or controlled by those in disproportionately impacted areas or individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses”. The words “minority” and “of color” rear their ugly heads again. White women are considered minorities and already benefit the most from affirmative action. And gentrification is real. Targeting “disproportionally impacted areas” (zip codes) is non-specific and allows for ADOS neighborhoods to be gentrified before any funding is dispersed.
Marijuana empires are being established now! Those with money — white America — have the economic capital to start businesses now and sell them for billions of dollars. ADOS do not have the multi-generational startup capital or the legal protections to enter and adequately compete in the marijuana market. ADOS would need direct and targeted legislation and financial investments (i.e. Reparations) for marijuana legalization to make sense for ADOS; without it, Bernie’s marijuana legalization will ironically usher in a new class of white billionaires and continue incarceration of ADOS due to market lockout.
Sen. Sanders intends to cancel all student debt (#CancelStudentDebt)
I have six-figure student loan debt and my student loan is a serious albatross around my neck. ADOS millennials were hit especially hard by the burden of student loan debt as we are a wealthless demographic. And so I understand why one would vote for Bernie on the bases of #CancelStudentDebt. Bernie supporters are quick to cite Marshall Steinbaum’s et. al research on the macro effect of canceling all student loan debt, the paper states
…By this measure, the racial wealth gap (the ratio of the median wealth of white households in that age range to the median wealth of black households in that age range) is approximately 12:1 in 2016, whereas in the absence of student debt, that ratio is 5:1…
That reduction is incorrect as the study’s inclusion criteria are restricted to median wealth for households headed by Black and white people between the ages of 25 and 40. That doesn’t make sense in the reality of multigenerational wealth transfers within families. Boomers are poised to pass on $68 trillion in inheritance to their descendants. The majority of that $68 trillion is held within white families by boomers who are above the age of 40 and by study design are not represented in Steinbaum’s calculations. Universities are expensive and I would imagine that student loan debt would eat into the inheritance of white Americans. Canceling student debt would be a massive wealth transfer to white America and prevent them from dipping into their wealth to foot the bill for their education. I predict Bernie’s #CancelStudentDebt will expand, not contract, the racial wealth gap.
But Bernie is a socialist and democratic socialism doesn’t entail specific policies for specific demographics. We’re all in this together.
That’s a lie. An entire generation of ADOS were addicted to crack in the ’80s and the United States government responded by passing the H.R.5484 — Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 (War On Drugs) and Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (’94 Crime Bill) that exploded the prison population and further devastated ADOS communities. But times have changed. America — white America — is now addicted to and dying from opioid addiction and the United States Congress is passing laws to stabilize and protect white America from itself. Bernie co-sponsored the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018 with a provision “requiring drug makers to reimburse an HHS-led ‘Opioid Reimbursement Fund’ for the negative economic impact of their products”, in other words, federal legislation for opioid reparations to white America.
Bernie attended the Native American Forum and made a verbal agreement to provide the finances to honor any all treaties signed between the American government and Native American First Nations. No pivoting to universality or social programs, just specific financial federal funding.
During the sixth democratic debate Bernie made it clear that, day one!, he’ll sign an executive order to make Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients full American citizens.
Bernie is entirely capable of understanding and passing specific legislation for the specific needs of specific demographics when he wants to. Yet when it comes to specific legislation for American Descendants of Slavery we are directed towards universality and socialist programs that lump us into the fog of “minorities” and “people of color” despite ADOS voting overwhelming Democratic for decades.
Well, Bernie said that he’ll sign HR 40
HR 40 is massively flawed and in need of revision. And, yes, Bernie did state — after being dragged for being anti-Reparations — he’ll sign HR40. That flawed bill is nowhere on Bernie’s issues page, and through his actions and comments it is clear that Bernie intends to put no energy into the bill’s passage through Congress.
Bernie intends to spend $32 trillion for Medicare, $16 trillion on the Green New Deal and $2.2 trillion to cancel student debt, a total of $50.2 trillion for his top three socialist programs but can’t find a dollar for Reparations.
But Bernie marched with Martin Luther King Jr. (1963 March on Washington)
Why would a candidate, who name-drops Martin Luther King Jr. left and right, hire Matt Orfalea, a man who made extremely offensive videos of King, only to fire Orfalea, not after his past behavior was brought to the attention of Bernie’s campaign but after the internet dragged Bernie for hiring a man proud of the racist video he made bastardizing King’s “I Have A Dream” speech?
Democratic socialists are quick to cite King’s Poor People’s Campaign in an attempt to paint King as a champion for socialist policies. A ploy to confuse ADOS and voters into thinking democratic socialism is fulfilling the ambitions of King. Martin Luther King made it very clear that he supported a reparations program, a reality that democratic socialists refuse to acknowledge.
But Bernie has the support of Nina, Killer…
Bernie does have the support of Nina Turner, Michael Santiago Render (aka Killer Mike), Briahna Joy Gray and Ja’Mal Green, men and women known to Black America. And so I say this with complete respect for them and their work: I don’t care that they support Bernie. I rebuke identity politics. I’m not falling for this again. President Obama paraded his wife Michelle Obama around (as he should) and I’ll admit that I subconsciously assumed that him being married to an ADOS woman meant that he would, at minimum, not allow ADOS to further collapse. I was wrong. Instead of listening to President Obama’s words and accepting his actions for what they were, I assumed that his Black family would lean him towards advocacy for ADOS. Blackness or proximity to Blackness is not legislation. Nina and company say many things regarding ADOS uplift that I agree with yet they’re not running for president. Bernie is. And the senator is steadfast in not putting any energy into specific legislation for ADOS.
Democratic socialists should stop using Black luminaries to silence ADOS
Democratic socialists should stop using Black luminaries to silence ADOS who criticize Bernie’s policies for their inadequacy in closing the racial wealth gap and his propensity to avoid the topic of Reparations, especially since we are only doing what Nina advised us to do.
But do I care about healthcare and the planet? Of course I do. I don’t see how redress for the ramifications of America Chattel Slavery means I don’t. I wouldn’t be frustrated with democratic socialism if Bernie and his supporters were honest in both his and his policy’s limitations.
ADOS are drowning and Bernie’s policies metaphorically toss us a flotation device while simultaneously plugging the holes in the cruise ships white America travel on, ships built by ADOS. Democratic socialism doesn’t erase the money already held by white America; it instead allows white America to hold onto the wealth it has accumulated by bailing them out to the tune of $50.2 trillion and outsourcing the cost of American living to the federal government while ADOS are left on our flotation devices navigating the ocean of 400 years of domestic racial oppression.
This is the revolution? Not impressed. Only frustrated.