We face a lot of important issues in the election of 2016. But for many voters, civil rights is the issue that takes priority over all the others. Some of the Republican candidates want to overturn the Constitutional amendment allowing same-sex marriage. There are also high-profile cases in which women, African-Americans, and LGBT people have faced discrimination and danger based on who they are. As we see with the Black Lives Matter movement, some people even lose their lives for being on the wrong side of rogue authority figures.
Bernie Sanders understands the economic issues facing the American people, but he’s been criticized for being too soft on civil rights and racial justice issues. Here’s what you may not know about Bernie Sanders – and why his record on civil rights makes him the right candidate for right now.
1. He was arrested for protesting segregation – more than 50 years ago.
Bernie participated in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) as a student at the University of Chicago. He was protesting segregation of the Chicago Public Schools in 1962 and got arrested for doing so. He still didn’t let up after that: he put up flyers around the city about police brutality. Not surprisingly, this didn’t make him very popular with the Chicago police. He even attended the 1963 March on Washington, where he heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in person.
2. He understands the unfair racial issues in the criminal justice system.
One in three black men will be in prison at some point in their lives, and black people are 31 percent of the victims killed by police, even though they make up only 13 percent of the population. Bernie knows that these statistics show the extent of the biases within the criminal justice system, and he knows that the system needs to be reformed. He was the first presidential candidate to talk about the death of Sandra Bland, the black woman who died in police custody in 2015, and he said it was hard to imagine a middle-class white woman receiving similar treatment.
Based on his record on race issues, Bernie has a 100 percent rating on civil rights issues from both the ACLU and the NAACP.
3. He has fought for gay rights for decades.
Bernie has been an ally to the LGBT community since the 1970s. Anti-discrimination policies against LGBT individuals were a part of his campaign platforms when he ran for office in Vermont in 1972 and 1976. He has a 100 percent approval rating from the Human Rights Campaign.
4. He voted against the PATRIOT Act.
The PATRIOT Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Bernie voted against it at that time and has voted for renewing it every single time. Bernie voted against this act to protect the civil rights of Muslim and Arab Americans, whose rights have been violated as a result of this act.
5. He opposes the death penalty.
Bernie opposes the death penalty and supports prison reform because he knows about the biases in the justice system against the poor and people of color.
Bernie Sanders has stood up for the civil rights of the common people during his entire political career. During a time when civil rights are again being threatened, we need a candidate who will protect everyone, regardless of color, sexual orientation, religion or income.