Independent Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign defended his use of the uncensored n-word in a 1997 book by explaining that “critiquing racism is not racism.”
Right-wing website The Daily Caller surfaced a passage from Sanders’ 1997 book “Outsider in the House” in which Sanders explains the political use of racism to pit poor white people against black people.
In the portion that the site quoted, Sanders wrote “For a hundred years, the white workers of the South were the most exploited white workers in America. They were paid the lowest wages, they endured the worst working conditions, their housing was abysmal, their kids went to the most backward schools, and very few could send their children to college. But what did they have? They were given ‘niggers’ to hate and look down on, ‘niggers’ who couldn’t vote, drink at their water fountains, use the same bathrooms, or sit up front in the buses or movie theaters.”
Later in that chapter — entitled “The Scapegoating Congress” — Sanders wrote that “white workers were encouraged to despise, and protect themselves from, their black neighbors, or face losing what little they had,” but that “political activists and union organizers brought black and white workers together to fight for justice” because ” they understood that real economic and political transformation would never be achieved as long as whites and blacks were busy fighting each other—rather than their common oppressors.”
Sanders campaign National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray responded to the website’s request for comment in an email:
“It should not need to be explained that critiquing racism is not racism, but let’s give it a try. Senator Sanders is describing the well-documented racism and hatred that was used to divide the working class against itself in this country for hundreds of years. In fact, that entire chapter of the book is simply a recounting — and criticism — of the Republican strategy that was infamously described by GOP strategist Lee Atwater in 1981, which involved using racial bigotry and epithets to demonize people of color,” Sanders campaign spokeswoman Briahna Gray told the DCNF in an email.“Senator Sanders was attacking that disgusting strategy and, of course, he would not use the word outside of this context. His entire political career has been dedicated to building a multi-racial coalition of working people to finally overturn the bloody legacy of racial hatred in our country,” Gray added.
Sanders himself spoke about that chapter of the book while promoting the book at a Vermont bookstore in 1997, where he related the politics of division to the then-current Republican majority led by Newt Gingrich.
Watch the clip above, via C-Span.