On Thursday February 11th, 2016, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) chose to endorse former Secretary of State and presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton over Senator and presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders. Congressman John Lewis, born of February 21st, 1940 in Troy Alabama, has chosen to support her as well.
That is his right.
No sooner than the endorsement of Hillary Clinton had come from the ranks of the CBC did the “innanet” start buzzing. When Congressman Lewis was asked about Senator Sanders’ involvement in the Civil Rights Movement from a reporter in the audience, Congressman Lewis had this to say:
“I never saw him, I never met him. I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years — 1963 to 1966,” he said. “I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery. I directed the board of education project for six years. I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”
That was Congressman Lewis’ recollection of Senator Sanders’ involvement and not an indictment on Sanders’ character. How can it be? Congressman Lewis could not possibly have seen all of the foot soldiers at work in a movement as vast as the Civil Rights Movement.
Congressman Lewis should never be called an “Uncle Tom” or a “sellout” for choosing not
to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders. At nearly seventy-five years old (75!), he has walked among the malignant and the uncouth, and the compassionate and the loving; and, he is still on the front lines trying to make America a better place. Despite his platform and visibility, he is still only one self-determined voter using his one vote to cast his one ballot for his one chance to say who he believes should be the next president of these United States of America. The only basis he has for making his decision is what each of us has—the candidate’s record to help align logic and rationale to our selection, and a compelling gut-feeling or intuition we may have with the candidate. Congressman Lewis knows no more than any of the rest of us about how Secretary Clinton will perform as president than the Bernie Sanders supporters know about how he will perform. We all only have their promises. Clinton and Sanders are both politicians vying for a coveted seat, in a powerful position and a particular place in America’s history.
We can disagree strongly in the political arena, but how dare any of us resort to demeaning another person for his or her right to choose the candidate of his or her choice?
I believe vehemently in my right to participate in the democratic process and I vote. I don’t always chose the winning candidate, but I always elect my choice. On all levels of government, none of the candidates I have selected or any of those who have run since I became a voter have ever made my issues as a Black person living in America, a priority; rather, my issues have always been masked as part and parcel of sub groups and their issues. These subgroups and their issues continue to be met before pertinent and relevant Black agenda issue items are even discussed…none of us know how different either of these candidates, Sanders or Clinton, will be once they get into office, but our uncertainty at their job performance should not have to come at the expense of the Congressman Lewis’s reputation, integrity, recollection, and his humanity.
Update: Congressman Lewis has since issued the following statement regarding his remarks about Senator Bernie Sanders, on February 13th, 2016:
“I was responding to a reporter’s question who asked me to assess Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the Civil Rights Movement, I did not meet Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time. The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”
Well written/said, Zakiyyah. Who we endorse is our personal choice, and though I may not agree with others, that doesn’t make their choice any less important to them. Truth be told, I have not made a choice to stand behind anyone yet, because nothing anyone has said has made me confident in choosing anyone to endorse just yet. We shall see…
Thank you immensely Neek for this response. I totally appreciate you and I am so glad you have contributed to this conversation. Too often we prematurely support candidates…I stand accused. I am waiting to see how these candidates will operate with fidelity as it pertains to my issues. I’m tired of being lower than second-class in consideration. Enough already.