At the recent Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was challenged by #BlackLivesMatter activists about his genuine interest in Black Americans. Thom Hartmann shares the Robert Reich Facebook response.

Beware the Divide & Conquer Strategy

Hartman quotes Reich saying, “[..] Black lives do matter. But it would be a terrible mistake for the progressive movement to split into a #BlackLivesMatter movement and an economic justice movement. This would only play into the hands of the Right. For decades the Republicans have exploited the economic frustrations of the white working middle class to drive a wedge between the races, channeling those frustrations into bigotry and resentment… In short, the Republican strategy has been to divide and conquer. They want to prevent the majority of Americans, poor working class and middle class, Blacks, Latinos, and whites from uniting in a common cause against the monied interests.” [Emphasis mine.]

#BlackLivesMatter Movement Needs Sanders’ Focus

Many times I have heard Bernie Sanders throw out facts about Black youth unemployment, prison reform, pay equity for women, gay rights, immigration, etc. He talks about human rights all the time. His statistics may come out in rapid-fire, and it may seem like he generally lumps everyone together. But to Sanders, it’s the principle that is important. Principles are objective and nondiscriminatory.

As righteous, raw and immediate as the #BlackLivesMatter movement is, Sanders habitually allows no one and nothing to distract him from his stated platform policies and issues (I’ve seen many show hosts try to do it), which are almost entirely about protecting the civil liberties and economic interests of all Americans. Sanders’ public behaviors are driven by thought and principle, rather than emotion and reaction.

That doesn’t mean he can’t understand what people care about, or can’t relate to the feelings and fears people have.

After the Netroots Nation Conference, don’t be surprised if Sanders does make a specific effort to focus on the #BlackLivesMatter movement in an upcoming article or interview. He must have seen that Black Americans want to really know they are on his radar. I don’t blame them. And I bet Bernie Sanders doesn’t, either. American Black history is too tormented, and the stakes are too high, for them to take an unscrutinized gamble on any candidate.