Ghet·to – a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups

Sen. Bernie Sanders may have torpedoed his chances of rallying undecided Black voters around his candidacy for the White House.

Sanders, the socialist from Vermont, is under fire this week for using the word “ghetto” in a reference to African-American families.

It was a self-inflicted political dagger to the heart of his campaign — and angry reaction was swift.

Even the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis — two young men killed in high-profile shootings — have stepped up to criticize Sanders.

“Sen. Sanders is wrong to suggest that the concept of the ghetto is inextricably connected to Black America, just as he was wrong to yet again defend his NRA-backed position on guns,” Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Here’s what happened: During the recent CNN debate in Flint, Michigan, about what “racial blind spots” he had, Sanders said this: “When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car.”

Black folks took to social media immediately to condemn Sanders, saying the implication incorrectly suggests that only African-Americans live in poverty. Statistics show, in fact, that many more whites live below the poverty line, particularly in rural areas of the country.

“We need a president who understands Black families don’t all live in ghettos — and who has a plan to end the racial violence that too often plagues families like mine,” Fulton said.

Sanders made an ill-advised comment while he was honestly trying to explain the mindset of some whites about Blacks. But in trying to explain white attitudes about Blacks, he inadvertently, and ironically, made the point about his own racial blind spots.

A year ago, this may have been be a blip on the screen, but in the thick of a heated presidential campaign, for some, it’s now a firestorm.

On Monday, Sanders sought to clarify his earlier remarks, hoping to put the controversy behind him. But I believe Sanders made the situation worse.

“What I meant to say is when you talk about ghetto, traditionally what you are talking about is African-American communities,” Sanders told reporters in Detroit.

When you’re in a hole, Bernie, stop digging.

In addition to the “ghetto” controversy, Sanders has more problems: The NRA defended Sanders’ position that gun manufacturers should receive special immunity protections from lawsuits when their guns kill Americans.

“Combating gun violence is a top priority for my family and countless families across this nation,” Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, said in a statement. “That’s why it’s so disappointing to see the NRA defending Senator Sanders on guns. Families need to be able to hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable when their weapons kill our children. We need a president who will fight for that – not someone who toes the NRA line.”

Sanders’ troubles comes at a critical time in the presidential election. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, has rallied thousands of African-American voters around her candidacy. She has received endorsements from all segments of the African-American community including influential ministers, politicians, educators – and Fulton and McBath.

Sanders is still hoping to make inroads with the Black community. He even met with Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem last month. Sanders already has an uphill climb to rally Black voters and his “ghetto” comments and his position on gun manufactures will only make his trek to securing the Democratic nomination for president even more difficult.

Although he won Michigan last night, Sanders is still well behind Clinton, who picked up more delegates with a win in Mississippi on the strength of her Black support.

For Sanders, this mess he created is probably a teachable moment, one that will force the 74-year-old senator from Vermont (perhaps the whitest state in the nation) to choose his words more carefully when discussing race.

What do you think?

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25 thoughts on “Dear Bernie: White People Are Poor, Too

  1. Bern you are so likable as a person BUT please stop with the FREE COLLEGE rhetoric. Just like it (appears) that you think most Black people live it ghettos….it also appears that you think everyone should go to college…..NOT. Sorry Bern….but NOTHING IS FREE. Your plan woud have to be paid for with our tax $$, and I’m not down with that. I’ve encountered soooo many kids that don’t know things they should have learned in high school. In my opinion unless someone is on track for a career (that really requires higher education) i.e., doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, nurse, etc. I’m not down with paying for their college, and they come out making$8 to $10 ah our working in fast food, or a department store. Every one doesn’t need to go to college; that’s just common sense!!

  2. Nancy Cruz on said:

    Not well thought out comments by Bernie … Really believe his intentions were good. I voted for Bernie , but the problem most politicians have is that their inner circle and all their friends
    are made up of the 1% . Politicians do NOT understand the struggles or even know middle and lower class people at all

  3. Over the years I’ve often SMH when news reports talk about welfare, and food stamps, and rarely mention White people that are on both welfare, and food stamps that live in the back woods, and mountains of Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, etc. Most of the coal mining jobs in (some) of these areas have long been gone; so where are they going to work. Do the Hannities, Limbaughs, etc. ever talk about this?

  4. byeuvixen on said:

    You’re damn right there are whole lot of poor white folk. I live in Louisiana and I see it every day. I went to this Vietnamese restaurant and this dirt poor white girl was working in the kitchen and had a nerve to say Obama wasn’t her president and never would be but she’s working for a refugee and still thought she was better than a Black person. I walked out and never went back. Her ignorant ass didn’t know the predicament she was in.

    • Byeuxien: The thing is that none of us are born prejudice. People are TAUGHT PREJUDICE….and, it becomes a part of their thought process, and psychic.

    • specialt757 on said:

      “dirt poor white girl” ooooh hilarious. And along with poor, she is uneducated, she will definitely be voting for Trump, that’s of course if she’s able to locate her voting station. The worst part about people who hate Obama especially in this case, they only go by what they’ve heard someone else say. They’ve never taken the time to education themselves, if their camel smokin’ pappy didn’t say it, they wouldn’t know it.

  5. Amber on said:

    Thi is just like the research was done to see if people knew the difference between “Afforable care” and “Obama care”. Many of the whites (not all) who weere asked the question did not agree with “Obama care” but they were open to afforable care and went down on President Obama. Majority of these whites who did not like Obama care were shocked to know that Obama care and Affortable care was the same. YOu should have seen to look on that white lady face to know that is what she had and she could only shut up and say nothing but “really” to the reporter.

  6. trenl on said:

    Michael Cottman is a Hillary Clinton propagandist so this really does not surprise anyone. At least Bernie Sanders didn’t pack the prisons with our children and call them superpredators. Black people who vote for Hillary Clinton are misinformed and voting against their interests. We are being lead by sell outs and crooks who are a disgrace to all African Americans.

    • specialt757 on said:

      So on one hand we have someone who tried to incarcerate criminals and on the other we have someone who don’t know that all Blacks are not poor. I see the dilemma here.

  7. Unfortunately, Sanders is a ‘Good ole Boy’. He fails to realize that Black people have classes too. When White people are poor and living in the ghetto — they are poor but still better than the N’rs in the ghetto, so he just see Black folks in the ghetto — that’s sad. It is slips of the tongue like that, that show true colors. I hope Hillary is learning from Trump and Sanders what not to do–she is a woman, so she probably is. He has got to come better than that. I know Obama is LHAO.

  8. Timekeeper on said:

    Actually, Bernie does have a certain point. Plenty of white folks Are Poor. The problem is that a lot of them vote against their own interests. Somehow, they believe, as Amber eluded to that somehow they are better. In fact, Donald Trump ( and to a larger extent) the GOP actually counts on this which is why there is always so much coded language in their speeches. I do believe the ghetto was a Freudian slip on his part ( although it was a big one)
    Chris Rock in one of his best stand ups said to a poor white guy in the audience that he would rather stay white and poor, than be rich and black. Which shows the value many of them have in their skin color. They believe in the Utopia of being white and all of it’s potential. In this way they are no better than the poor Iraqi kid who thinks he will die and marry 100 virgins. Poor whites receive welfare checks, get food stamps, WIC more than anyone else. But somehow their reasons get legitimized by society or aren’t even discussed. People say that DEMS use the black vote. Not nearly as much as the GOP uses poor folks of any ethnic group to rail against each other.
    Yes, there are poor whites, And what makes anyone even poorer is when you think your poverty or your situation is somehow different or any better than someone elses.

    • specialt757 on said:

      Which is mind boggling’ in itself. Poor whites still get opportunities blacks don’t. Watching a documentary one day, this white convicted felon was released from prison, he had to find a job, he found a job almost immediately, it was as a cook but still someone hired him knowing he was a convicted felon without blinking an eye. Being black and a convicted felon, getting a minimum wage job as a cook at a diner would be a challenge, even years later. So if you look at it that way Bern does have a point when he says whites don’t know the struggles.
      Although we’ve come a long way and have made great strides, we still have not reached the Promised Land, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in my life-time.

  9. specialt757 on said:

    Yep this was a major faux pas Bern. How is the black community supposed to believe you are working for their benefit when you believe that only blacks are poor? GTHOH. Hell I went to the K-mart the other day and the poor whites were walking across the highway (from their trailer park) with wife-beaters, flip flops, turned around ball caps, carrying lil dirty babies, smokin’ camels and looking like they hadn’t showered for days.
    I got news Bern, these white folks were a long way from having money, ANY money. They looked poorer than the poorest black person I’ve ever seen. The truth of the matter is not ALL blacks are poor and not ALL whites are well-off.
    Maybe you misspoke or maybe you’re not in touch with reality, which is my guess. Either way, run your speeches by an expert speech writer next time, they’re paid to make you sound intelligent. The real you has surfaced, the gig is up.

  10. Amber on said:

    Some whites are poor ( I know some poor whites in my hometown). What use to bother me about some of them is those whites still though they were better than blacks due to skin color. One white girl I use to help in school with her math and she later turned on me as if she was better than me and others. I think the differences is Poor whites are having problems but poor blacks get it worst.

    • In the movie Selma right at the end King is standing on the state capitol steps and
      He almost echoes that “poor whites are tolled no matter what your situation is you can always be proud of the fact that your still white and better than any black man”
      Which I look at that as the rich white man blowing smoke up his own people’s azz
      Just to keep them in line I’ve seen documentary’s on whites up in the Appellations
      Those people are far worse than many blacks

      • specialt757 on said:

        I remember the speech, and even now today it stands true, poor whites get treated better than some of us (blacks) who don’t live below the poverty line.
        And although some of them believe they are better than us, some of them don’t know the power their skin tones possess.

  11. jhuf on said:

    Really? when someone talks about welfare reform, or voter ID Al Sharpton sure gives the impression that it only affects Blacks not to mention how we through Ghetto out to describe something or someone black

    • Amber on said:

      That is LIE. Rev Al Sharpton talks about issues that effect blacks but that does NOT mean blacks are the only one who are poor. Rev Al was one of the first people I heard who said more whites are on welfare than blacks. Stop lying on man just because you do not like him.

      • Ok Amber the next time Tom Joyner or anyone else makes a statement about how
        Republicans want to take away our voting rights with voter ID laws you will be sure to correct them with that fact RIGHT? PS you are correct I don’t care for him he’s an opportunist he hustled himself up to Ferguson and B-more give his speech about
        The travesty’s committed by the police, then strolled back out and we all watched the body counts and violence committed do to a lack of police sky rocket

    • Jhuf: Sharpton is no more an “opportunist’ than the rest of the pundits on TV that are BEING PAID BIG $$ to give their opinion. If there’s room for a Hannity, O’Reilly, Limbaugh, etc…..then there’s room for Sharpton.

  12. Linda on said:

    Oops Bernie seems to have forgotten there is a much higher percentage of “poor White Trash” in this country and contrary to popular belief –all Black folks do not live in the ghetto!


    If Bern really wishes to garner the African American votes he needs to come to our “hoods”–visit our churches on Sundays, walk and press the flesh throughout our communities. That is the only way for some White folks to truly see how others LIVE!!!!!!!!!

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