The former national press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during his presidential campaign, spoke at the Betts Theatre Wednesday about the future steps policymakers should take to address racial and economic inequalities in America.
The event was part of the annual two-day diversity summit organized by the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement. At the summit, students were invited to participate in a number of smaller events that focused on various topics including race relations in America, gender biases and socio-economic inequality.
Symone Sanders, the former press secretary for Sanders’ campaign, delivered the summit’s second keynote address to an audience of students and faculty on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
At the beginning of her address, Sanders said that even though five decades have elapsed since King’s death, some of the goals he fought for during the Civil Rights Movement still haven’t been realized.
“Fifty years later, the thing that Dr. King laid down his life for, we still haven’t figured out. Fifty years later we ain’t been to the promised land – I don’t care if we’ve had a black president,” she said.
She added that King’s movement was not solely geared toward achieving a passive peace among races in America, but also aimed at reducing economic and income inequality.
“Dr. King knew that one cannot fully exist and participate in the fullness that America has to offer if they are hampered economically, so he put the poor people’s fight together,” Sanders said.
In response to audience questions about how to deal with racism on campus, Sanders said activists who decide to tackle issues of racial injustice and economic inequality must remain persistent.
“That is the nature of the work that we have self-selected to do, and until more people decide to do just a little bit, a few of us are going to have to do just a little more,” Sanders said.
She said college students can help bring about racial change by defining goals and banding together to support their cause.
“It is all really coalition-building and strategy,” she said. “We need to identify the issue, we need to identify steps that we think could get us there to change the issue, what is it that we want changed, and then how could we amass a coalition of people to do that work?”
She said masses of people will only join racial activists in pursuing full equality when it becomes “socially and politically popular.”
“Whatever the issue is and wherever you are, that is when the masses join you,” she said.