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Berning Down Stereotypes: Meet Bernie’s Diverse Supporters

12 min read

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or political position of Brown Girl Magazine.

by Nishi Fatima

Since day one of the election, there’s been evidence that the mainstream media has portrayed the supporters of Democratic Presidential nominee Sen. Bernie Sanders as predominantly white, and overwhelmingly male. The accusations of a lack of diversity among his supporters reached comical levels this past weekend when the Senator won primaries in some of the most diverse states in the country by landslides, an accomplishment, which somehow was still “whitewashed” by mainstream media.


Since the Internet is never one to back down, backlash ensued over social media through a hashtag called #BernieMadeMeWhite. Of course, it didn’t take long for the tag to begin trending as a result, with some powerful, witty, and hilarious results.

In response to this hashtag and all the hoopla leading up to its creation, we wanted to take this one step further and actually speak to some desi, Hispanic and Arab, supporters of Berners about why they support their candidate, and what they think of media whitewashing of Sen. Sanders’ supporters.


Sarah

City: Dallas, TX

Occupation: Student

Age: 23

sarah

1. Why do you support Bernie?

I have a third-degree Bern. I’ve yet to disagree with him on an issue. His stance with Muslims is impeccable compared to other candidates.  Bernie Sander’s campaign is so real. It’s supported by real support instead of shady companies. And now you have a cute bird involved, c’mon, America. I see Bernie as an honest man and politician (who knew the words honest and politician would be in the same sentence?) and that’s what I admire about him the most. He walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He’s been fighting for equality while another candidate was calling a race, ‘predators.’ You’re all yearning for a Berning, just accept it.

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

I think it’s odd that media highlights the main source of support for Bernie as white males. I don’t know any white males supporting him. Actually, I don’t see any media on him. I have to go to Twitter or Facebook to get any decent Third Degree Bern coverage. I didn’t know who Bernie Sanders was until I saw a post about him on Tumblr. Isn’t that crazy? I think the real question is why isn’t the media showing Bernie at all? If he wins this, it’ll be amazing. This will truly show the world how powerful the Internet is.


Stephen

City: Austin, TX

Occupation: Marketing

Age: 32

Stephen

1. Why do you support Bernie?

Bernie’s economic policies are closely in line with views I have held since about 2003. The fairness aspect of the U.S. economy has greatly diminished over the last 40 years, and it’s been done in a way that now has many people voting against their own interests. It’s refreshing to see someone not only pushing for a shift on things like extreme inequality, higher wages, increased social safety net, etc. but also shifting the conversation within the Democratic Party. As there has been a gradual shift to the right since the 70s, the Democratic Party has, in my view, shifted along with it. His commitment to grass-roots fundraising is evidence of his commitment to restoring integrity to the democratic process, and I have a lot of respect for that.

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

Maybe I have a slightly different view of this. I see this more as an education thing than a race thing. My intuition tells me that Bernie’s message is much more cerebral than most candidates’, which doesn’t always translate well into a political bumper sticker. Education teaches me that his economic policies will greatly benefit the lower class (which traditionally has a higher minority population), but without that understanding, I can see how his message wouldn’t be as palatable. The irony, of course, is that this is exactly the type of thing Bernie wants to improve. The lower class has far fewer opportunities to improve their quality of life than their middle and especially upper-class counterparts, and much of that starts with improved education and more fair economic policies. Again, this is all intuition, and I have no data to back it up, but I wonder if many minority voters choose Hillary, not because they are making an educated decision based on policy understanding, but rather more on name recognition and reputation. I think Bernie’s camp would do well to translate the economic message into one that appeals to the hot-button topics the minority base cares about.


Neena

City: Back and forth between Baltimore, MD and Staten Island, NY

Occupation: Student studying Finance

Age: 24

neena1. Why do you support Bernie?

I support Bernie for a combination of reasons. I admire his character and principles, and I concur with his political stances. I think he is an honest and sincere man who cares about the American people, especially every day working Americans. Bernie advocates for what I believe as the two biggest issues of my generation: income inequality and climate change. I think America is a third world country living in a first world country – while some aspects and areas are fantastic, the general quality of life has deteriorated due to poor leadership and inefficient policies. I think Bernie campaign acknowledges those realities head-on.

Bernie has served in the Senate for many years so he is committed to representing American people. He became a viable presidential candidate despite not having a super PAC or having enormous funding. His voting track record has been commendable and consistent for many decades; for instance, he did not elect for the Iraq war, has been a long time supporter of civil and gay rights, etc. Importantly, he does not discriminate against minorities or other demographics.

It may be simplistic, but I’ve noticed that Bernie is the only candidate that actually gives direct answers to questions while not insulting people in the process. I assess political viability based on character, respect, consistency, transparency, and competence. I think Bernie has exemplified all these qualities and would make a fine president.

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

I think that media narrative is detrimental in the long run. Personally, I identify with Bernie and his views, and think his positions will positively benefit minorities, women, LGBTQ, etc – his stances are not limited to the improvement of white males. Importantly, his views are inclusive of and helpful toward people of color. By perpetuating that narrative, people who do not identify as ‘white male’ may be discouraged from learning about Bernie and supporting his campaign.

I think my reaction depends on the situation. If a state population is truly and largely composed of white people, it makes sense to predict Bernie’s success based on that demographic measure. But if a state population comprises diverse people, it’s ignorant to think that only the “whiteness” is the deciding factor. At the end of the day, I see a clear media bias against Bernie whether it’s framed as related to POC or not. He is doing well, has gone very far in the campaign, and advocates for real issues affecting millions of Americans while being respectful of people’s differences.


Nishi (that’s me!)

City: Denver. CO

Occupation: Audiologist

Age: 32

nishi1. Why do you support Bernie?

I’m actually a reformed Hillary Clinton follower. I was sadly one of those ‘we finally need a woman prez, ITS OUR TIME’ people who hadn’t actually researched anything about her politics (which isn’t of course to say all of her followers follow this stupid modus operandi). My views of course changed rapidly once I began to look into Bernie’s platform, message, and history. Now, I have fifth degree burn that no ointment can treat. I’ve never felt so passionate about a candidate and have never cared as much about elections before. This is because prior to Bernie, most politicians made me feel hopeless or indifferent. They put on a façade of inclusivity but then would go forth and do whatever worked best for the establishment. But Bernie’s honesty and integrity are unprecedented, something that I never thought would ever be found in a politician. He has been committed to issues of social justice, gender equality, income equality, and progressive change for many decades now, unlike a certain candidate whose only consistency has been flip-flopping based on her donations and focus groups.

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

It’s incredibly frustrating, but sadly it’s only one of my many grievances against the mainstream media during this election. Considering how favorable the mainstream media can be to HRC, it’s difficult not to feel as though this false narrative has been perpetuated in order to make people of color feel as though Bernie Sanders is not the right candidate for them. Yet again, we are reduced to a mere tool to further a narrative, in this case the narrative being that Bernie supporters are not diverse. It’s also an erasure of sorts; our voices and presence are literally being erased from the media. Thankful for social media and alternative news sources to help set the record straight!


Ali

City: St. Paul, MN

Occupation: DJ/Museum Curator

Age: 35

ali

1. Why do you support Bernie?

I support Bernie because I am of the belief that he is the natural extension of the hope and change President Barack Obama wanted to bring and to make that change permanent in the ever changing demographics our society faces as a whole. While the Republican party remains largely hijacked by ideals that do not speak to the majority, whereas the Democratic party is playing to largely monarchy standards in order to avoid the inevitable, we need an extension of that promise that Obama brought to the White House eight years ago. Bernie is the only man in my view that can bring that to fruition.

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

Personally, I don’t care…it just shows that the message that Bernie has resonates with them, and it also echoes how out of touch the mainstream politicians and the media alike are focusing on just being machines to churn out this election to be a Trump versus Clinton affair.  It continues to display the media’s ignorance at large as to why people are resonating with Sanders message, rather than just play on the fears of society at large.


Nivia

City: Brooklyn, NY

Occupation: Information Technology

Age: 37

nivia1. Why do you support Bernie?

I started supporting Bernie when I learned about his stance on our prison systems and his statements on the high percentage of black men in the prison system. This is an issue that I’ve never heard a presidential candidate mention before. Sanders speaks on many issues that no presidential candidate spoke about this election such as income inequality, unfair campaign funding, climate change, and the unjust occupation of Palestine. While other candidates spend their time lying to the public, offending marginalized groups and ignoring issues that are directly affecting Americans- we have Bernie who brings the true issues affecting us to light.

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

It’s disappointing since ‘white males’ is synonymous with ‘privileged.’ Bernie speaks for the marginalized and disenfranchised yet the media pushes the idea that his supporters are mostly white, leaving people who should be supporting him feel as if he is not a candidate for them. The media coverage on Bernie has been extremely disappointing. This is a once-a-century candidate, yet we have the media putting most of it’s focus on a demagogue who gains supporters by throwing insults. Every day we see these click-bait articles on Donald Trump and his latest scandal, yet the candidate who stands for fairness is left out in the shade.


Tanvir

City: Fayetteville, NC

Occupation: Student

Age: 28

tanvir1. Why do you support Bernie?

I support Bernie because he speaks to, and for, the issues that matter to me. He is in favor of (and voted in favor of) nearly any issue that I have a stance on, from net neutrality, to the Iraq War, to abortion. And he speaks against many of society’s ill’s while avoiding demagoguery. He has been trying to take on the oligarchical establishment for decades, and it seems like a fight that he has mostly waged alone, in political circles, at least. He is so incredibly principled, humble, and consistent. Millenials have not seen a presidential candidate like him in our lifetimes. He may even be the first ever. Millenial activists see themselves in him; the ultimate ally, for civil rights, for gender equality, for economic equality, and most of all, for treating everyone as a human. His stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his dismissal by AIPAC, his support for Muslims in their time of need, when so many are calling for our deaths and deportation, and for so many other vulnerable populations.

3. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

This is a narrative I have mostly not seen, since I don’t watch a lot of CNN/NBC/ABC for my news. Most of my news comes from Twitter and Facebook posts, usually from friends, and usually from liberal friends. So this narrative is not one that I am very familiar with. And it is simply laughable. Bernie enjoys so much support from all manner of diverse minorities and oppressed groups, that it would take willful ignorance, and a will to side with the establishment, to ignore the reality of the demographics of his supporters.


Duriba

City: Austin, TX

Occupation: Writer, Incoming Freshman at the University of Texas at Austin

Age: 17 (But! Will be 18 right in time to vote for this election.)

duriba1. Why do you support Bernie?

The concept of political jabs and accusations that come with every election are of no interest to me. The concept of humanity supporting one another to eradicate bloodshed, the wage gap, and poverty, however, is one I am willing to sacrifice anything for. Although I began as a supporter for Hillary, my views rapidly began to align with those of Senator Sanders, as he is basically the 6” Jewish, toothy and idealistic embodiment of *~EqUaLiTyyyyy~* in terms of educational opportunities, bringing our troops home, and taxes on Wall Street. Most imperatively, unlike Clinton, the fact that Sanders walks his talk (ex: although both speak on ending sexual assault prevention programs, Sanders actually co-sponsored a 2015 bill that implemented the expansion of victims’ rights on campuses) is another reason I’ve thrown out my aloe vera in order to wholeheartedly feel the Bern (zing!).

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

When I hear about the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males, I’m baffled.  However, I see this as Hillary’s stellar ability to sweep minorities, not Bernie’s lack of it. When pundits predict his success based on the ‘whiteness’ of the population, I feel outnumbered and underrepresented, especially as everything except a white man: rather, brown and a woman.


Elizabeth

City: Woodmere, NY

Occupation: Student

Age: 25

elizabeth1. Why do you support Bernie?

I support Bernie Sanders because he is a consistent pillar for the people. He has supported gay rights since the early 80s, voted against the Wall Street bailout, refuses to accept money from super PACs, and continues to support the #FightFor15.

And that’s just a quick glossing.

It’s not uncommon for other women to throw me the side eye when they learn that I was Berned early in the campaign. As though, no matter what, I should be supporting Clinton on the mere basis of her prospects of becoming the first woman president. But for women of color, Clinton really isn’t the obvious feminist choice. Clinton’s feminism turns a blind eye to intersectionality and her foreign policy decisions as Secretary of State have both harmed innocent people of color throughout the world  (ie: Honduras) and perpetuated longstanding systems of oppression. These are systems of oppression that both Clinton and the Republicans want to preserve. These are systems that Senator Sanders has wanted to dismantle since his earliest days in Washington.

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

It is obviously a bit disconcerting to hear reporting that characterizes Sanders’ supporters as mainly white males. But this erasure of voices with respect to people of color is not a new narrative in our country’s campaign cycles. However, to predict Sanders’ success based on the white vote, political pundits everywhere are making a grave error. Our erasure won’t continue at the polls. That’s the thing about numbers–they can be so inconvenient.


Ravleen

City: Colombus, OH

Occupation: Student

Age: 19

1. Why do you support Bernie?

To preface, these are my own opinions and do not reflect views of those who I may work for. I support Bernie because he and I agree on just about every single issue. He’s authentic and gets to the point in his debates. He was there from the beginning to fight for civil rights and universal healthcare. I cannot think of anyone with more progressive values. When I think of Bernie, I think of honesty and inclusiveness. He speaks about issues people my age are worried about today, such as college education and healthcare, and I think he really does want to make this country better for the common people.

2. How does it make you feel when you continuously see the media narrative that Bernie supporters are primarily white males?

I truly haven’t really seen that media narrative in action. That may be because most of my friends are people of color.


Nishi Fatima is a blogger, traveler, Air BnB peruser, and illegal street rapper (well, mainly in her dreams) who day jobs as an Audiologist in the city of Denver, C.O. When she’s not tweeting on the current state of racism or deeply musing on the nuances of the desi diaspora via an awkward vlog, she’s probably enthralled by “Law & Order: SVU” on a treadmill somewhere. Her writing has appeared in The Austin-American Statesmen, the Associated Press, and the Dallas Morning News. Follow her thoughts and misadventures at her blog.

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