The tension sparked by Democratic 2016 candidates’ discussions of race at this year’s Netroots Nation conference has spilled over into the world of social media. On Sunday, Social media users took to Twitter to both voice either their disappointment or support for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by briefly turning the satirical hashtag #BernieSoBlack into a nationwide trending topic.
Both Sanders and fellow Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley on Saturday were confronted by protesters while they attempted to address audiences at the progressive forum. Activists pressured both men to say the name of Sandra Bland, the Chicago woman who recently died while in a Texas prison under controversial circumstances, and to speak more specifically about people of color who “have been killed by a powerful system.”
“Black lives of course matter but I have spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and if you don’t want me to be here, that’s OK,” Sanders told the hecklers. Meanwhile, O’Malley was booed for insisting that “white lives matter,” while making the case for “all lives.” However on Sunday, it was Sanders, who hails from the country’s whitest state, who became the topic du jour.
“#BernieSoBlack is legit criticism, and the angry/dismissive response by white Bernie supporters is shamefully familiar progressive racism,” one Twitter user who identifies himself as Joshua David explained. While another social media user, Joshua Jackson, tweeted:“#DearWhiteProgressives Our voices will be heard and we will achieve our goals. Whether you’re comfortable with it or not. #BernieSoBlack.”
However, Sanders was not without his defenders, some of whom acknowledged his long standing history of challenging Congress to recognize issues which disproportionately affect African-Americans.
Meanwhile, others within the progressive movement have taken a humorous approach by using the 140-character social platform to mock cultural references associated with the black community.