I Feel a Political Revolution Coming

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I Feel a Political Revolution Coming

(Erica Garner photo)

Four years ago, if you had asked me who I would vote for in this presidential election, I would have said Hillary Clinton. However, in the last four years, my views of Hillary have changed and as I dig into her past and notice inconsistencies. She has been flip-flopping her whole life, and while changing opinions isn’t a crime, someone who is running for the presidency should have unwavering consistency in backing up campaign promises.

When it comes to lifelong proof that one’s words matches his intentions, it’s evident that Bernie Sanders is the best choice to serve as the next president of the United States — especially for African Americans. I think, when given the facts and the political histories of the Democratic candidates, that every activist in this new modern day civil rights movement — whether Black Lives Matter or otherwise — will feel the same amount of passion I have for Bernie Sanders.

The past couple of years have been horrible on this whole nation, particularly as it relates to race. Tragedy after tragedy, death after death. My dad (Eric Garner) in Staten Island, Mike Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Raynette Turner in Mount Vernon — the list grows daily. However, these conditions are nothing new. People like Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Marcus Garvey put their bodies and lives on the line to stand up and send a message that we are human beings, and should be respected as such. And it was Sanders — not Clinton — who put his body on the line with us.

The media often would like us to believe that Sanders’ promises to continue his quest for equality are too lofty and unrealistic, and even impossible. Is it really impossible to treat Black people like humans instead of just votes? Is it really so impossible to make an investment in our students instead of the $17 billion the Clintons invested in police, military grade weapons and prisons? Is it really impossible to invest in the healthcare of the American people instead of the $26 billion wasted training foreign armies under Clinton as Secretary of State? Is it really impossible to demand transparency from our police departments and our criminal justice system in an effort to bring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to fruition once and for all? Is it really impossible to take the necessary steps to get more teachers and counselors in our schools instead of labeling them super predators and putting them on the school to prison pipeline?

“Is it really so impossible to make an investment in our students instead of the $17 billion the Clintons invested in police, military grade weapons and prisons?”Furthermore, the media seem to pigeonhole him as being a one-issue candidate when in reality he has stood up against war, climate change, government corruption, equal inadequate housing, poor healthcare AND Wall Street. Just because he stands with Black people doesn’t mean he won’t help everyone. There has never been a time in this country when life improved for Black folks and didn’t dramatically improve for everyone else. As he has said himself, “I am human. When you hurt, I hurt.”

I decided to stand with Senator Sanders not because someone told me to do it. I did it because he listened to me and he is consistent. First I decided to read, research, and ask questions about Sander’s platform and political track record. After all, it’s not like my teachers in NYC excellent public-school system taught me about how government works.

Since my endorsement of Bernie Sanders, I’ve noticed a lot of people started paying attention to him, and my hope is that more Black Americans will recognize that he has done more for our cause than any other candidate. He isn’t telling us to shut up or that you deserve to be escorted out of events because you have a voice and want to use it, as is Trump.

During my time in South Carolina, I was anonymously volunteering, making phone calls, and knocking on doors and in the process, I came across many Black women between the ages of 60 and 85 who were Hillary supporters. When I asked them what the most important issue is to them, almost all responded with healthcare and social security, which led me to ask they why they supported Clinton. Needless to say, I didn’t get many real answers.

I also took part in roundtable discussions at local colleges, free from cameras and microphones. Without the media present, I told my story and answering questions from real people, questions which have never been asked by the media. Even though I was campaigning for Bernie, I was also reaching out to my peers - not on a political level but more in the sense of having conversations. For example, when I visited the University of South Carolina I walked into the lunch room and introduced myself, telling the group of students and staff the story of my journey. There were hundreds of people there, and after we had this awakening talk, they continued the discussion well into their lunch hour, something invaluable that they could never “learn” in a classroom.

I think the people are behind Bernie is because he represents us, the average working people. He describes a dream in which our future isn’t a place of so much greed, endless cover-ups and conspiracy. He is reminding us working people that we have a voice, and that nobody has the right to silence us. He strongly believes in giving the government back to the people and changing business as usual.

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Recently, Hillary has said she “is the only candidate that can get things done.” If she really is the best candidate that could get things done — then I would like for her to tell us how she plans to execute the do the things that she is promising Black folks. How does she plan to eliminate institutional racism? I’d also like to hear her explain why she had to wait for a White House run to talk about these issues? I also think she should release the transcripts so that we can verify that she isn’t telling us one thing and them something else. It’s a shame the Clinton campaign, including Hillary herself, said my father deserved to be punished for a crime he didn’t commit. But my decision to not support Clinton goes far beyond my own personal experiences.

There is an awakening of consciousness happening in our country today, an awakening assisted by general conditions and enhanced by the reality that Donald Trump is more than likely going to be the Republican nominee. However, that reality can be more strongly counteracted with a Bernie Sanders nomination than a Hillary Clinton nomination. We all know why Trump is winning — looks who’s backing him; white supremacists affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and other narrow-minded bigots. But if we as Black people stand up and vote for change like we did with Obama in 2008 and 2012, we can do it again in 2016.

As I reflect on what’s been taking place in the presidential race within the context of my experiences in South Carolina recently, some questions I’d like to ask my people come to mind. Do you know why Senator Sanders deserves our votes? Because he represents change. People are starting to wake up, they recognize that we cannot afford more of the same. It isn’t America versus Iraq. It’s the rich folks subjugating everyone else, by the way the Clintons are solidly rich. Ask yourselves this: how can a whole race of people become nearly extinct and essentially erased from the history taught in the schools that receive our tax dollars? Sanders is the best positioned candidate to relate Black voters, 85% of whom live on $50,000 or less — and all oppressed and marginalized groups in the United States.

It’s time for people — Black and minority people — to wake up, young or old. Anytime someone tries to stand with any Black man, woman or child, that person will be taken down by the media and the systemic racism that the American political establishment is charged to maintain. People are quick to say that Bernie Sanders just appeared out of thin air, but that is nonsense. He was a young protestor in 1960s Chicago, standing with Black people for equal housing rights. Yes, he is a White man, but he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

I’m still on the Bernie Sanders campaign trail and I will continue to knock on doors and shake hands and hear people’s voices. This isn’t a Bernie Sanders movement. It’s a continuation of the struggle that we have been involved with for centuries, but there is no better ally for us of the current list of prospective nominees. I’m tired of my father’s name, face and pictures being exploited ever since his death. My family had to continue to bare witness to what we saw as a flat-out murder over and over while watching as people on the television screen tried desperately to convince the world that it wasn’t a murder.

Our Black establishment elected officials try and erase Bernie’s history when hey are supposed to be our leaders. One thing about this movement is that it’s led by people who are awake, not one person following the other but different ideas coming together to make one. We have no leader and we don’t like to be pandered to, but Sanders is elevating our voices.

I feel a political revolution coming...

Erica Garner

Erica Garner is the eldest daughter of the late Eric Garner, who was killed by police during an arrest in 2014. She is an activist, mother and founder of the Garner Way Foundation.

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