#BernieMadeMeWhite: Meet the Black writer who called out the media for erasing people of color

image via Leslie Lee III
Image via Leslie Lee III
Originally posted on March 28, 2016 on RawStory

Leslie Lee III is a writer and English teacher from Baton Rouge, LA who lives in Yokahama, Japan with his wife, Kelly, and their dog, Taco. His writing ranges from essays and articles on politics and Japanese wrestling, to the novel he is working on with his father about Kentucky’s Black coal miners. But according to some sources, Lee does not actually exist. He’s a figment of the imagination. Because he’s both Black and a supporter of Bernie Sanders.

The nice thing about the notion of the unbearable whiteness of being a Sanders supporter is that it doesn’t need to be based in reality. On Saturday, for example, CNN attributed Sanders’ landslide victories in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington primaries to the whitey-mcwhiteyness of the states:

These caucus states — largely white and rural — are the type of places Sanders traditionally does well. In order to win the nomination, he must replicate this success in other, more ethnically diverse states that hold primaries, as he did in Michigan last month. In theory, it’s possible. But the reality is tough.

Likewise, in theory, it’s possible to portray these states as white. But the reality is tough. Because they’re not. Washington state is literally the seventh most diverse state in the Nation. Two (if not three) of the five most diverse counties in the country are found in Alaska, which CNN itself described as “the most diverse place in America,” in an article in January. And Hawaii, according the Pew Research Center,

stands out… more than any other state… when it comes to its racial and ethnic diversity… The Rainbow State has never had a white majority. In fact, non-Hispanic whites, the largest group in most states, account for only 23% of the population, according to 2013 census figures.

But you know the old adage, necessity (to correct irresponsible journalism and media bias) is the mother of (viral) invention. And So, Mr. Lee launched his epic #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag, mocking the idea that all supporters of Sanders are white. Its debut appearance was:

 

I decided I would ask Mr. Lee, or @tokyovampires as he’s known on Twitter,  about what inspired the hashtag, though merely ignoring it and him would have been a very meta demonstration of the very erasure he’s protesting.

He explained, “The common narrative in this election that Bernie has a ‘minority problem’ or that all his supporters are ‘bros’ is pervasive, and insulting to the POCs [People of Color] and women who support [him].” But, “it hit a peak… when Hawaii, the least white state in the nation, retroactively became white or ‘not diverse’ due to the fact that Bernie won it. So, I started #BernieMadeMeWhite.”  And, Lee tweeted to me, “since my real existence as a black person who supports Bernie is ignored…  might as well embrace my new whiteness.”

Lee was kind enough to answer some more questions over e-mail, probably out of a sense of solidarity, since I’m a female Bernie bro and don’t really exist either.

Continue Reading…

 

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