Many were outraged Sunday night by Sen. Bernie Sanders’s answer to a CNN debate question when he said, “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.”
To many, the answer seemed to deny the existence of white poverty and equate being non-white with being poor.
Sanders surrogate Killer Mike said the backlash itself was outrageous.
“He used a colloquial term that every person I know uses!” he told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “I trust black people to be more intelligent than to be baited like this.”
The core of the issue, Killer Mike says, is Sanders’s use of the phrase “white people.” Yes, by any literal interpretation, the senator said no white people have experienced poverty, but Sanders — like countless other people — was using it as shorthand for the white middle class, Killer Mike said.
“In this country, when people talk about white people, they’re talking about the perceived white middle class. What I think he was saying—what I know he was saying—is that the white middle class, which he and Hillary represent—they don't know what it’s like to live in a ghetto!"
Other black public figures have been less generous in their interpretation.
“We have to end the view that black=ghetto=poor,” tweeted Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon Jr. on Sunday night, in response to Sanders’s comments.
To Mike, such criticism is not only unfounded but intellectually dishonest.
“I am truly embarrassed that black leaders are baiting their own black constituents like this,” he said. “It is wrong, it is disingenuous, and I hope that for those black leaders who are turning this against him, their chickens come home to roost somehow.”
Mike urged voters of color not to believe the hype.
“You have to stand by the person who is acknowledging the unfairness of your suffering,” he said. “If you don’t vote for him, don’t let it be for some stupid-ass reason the media told you.”