Sanders Surrogate Loses it On Reparations and Julian Castro: How Bernie's Cult Plans to Bully Critics

Nina Turner / Julian Castro. Turner photo credit: Wikimedia.

Bernie Sanders' 2020 National co-chair (and 2016 Jill Stein supporter) Nina Turner was vicious, sharp, and racist in her attacks against Democratic presidential candidate, Congressman, and former Obama HUD Secretary Julian Castro, after Castro cut Bernie down to size on the question of reparations. Castro clocked Sanders' outright opposition to monetary or financial reparations for slavery by contrasting Bernie's proposals on health care and free college: each of which is essentially to write a check. It was brutal and brilliant. Watch:


It hit Bernie Sanders where it hurts. Castro's response shined a bright light on a point that we have been making for a long time: Bernie Sanders has no problems throwing money at a problem except to address systemic racism.

There is a very pointed and obvious reason why Bernie Sanders refuses to talk about reparations, preferring to turn any conversation about reparation into broad economic issues that have nothing to do with America's original sin of slavery. The idea of reparations - in whatever form - makes white people uncomfortable. Bernie Sanders is counting heavily on the super white Iowa and the uber undemocratic caucus system to give him a head start in next year's primaries, and he's counting on another super white state - New Hampshire - to follow that up. Bernie's stand on reparations - or his lack of a stand on reparations - is evidence that despite all the diversity tokenism his campaign has been gaming, Bernie Sanders is not actually willing to lose white votes by standing up for black people.

And so of course Bernie Sanders' campaign could not afford to engage Julian Castro in a policy debate about reparations and what forms it should take. Instead, they sent out their most visible surrogate - who they believe will have a hard time getting criticized for racism since she is a black woman - Nina Turner, to, as one of my favorite tweets on the subject said, to bully and "attack a Mexican American for supporting reparations for black people."

Turner's specific attack on Castro was a buffet of tropes, including an attempt to divide Hispanics and African Americans, once again diluting race to nothing more than a distraction from economics, and, for good measure, maligning the president Julian Castro served as HUD Secretary, Barack Obama.

The most popularized of Turner's tweets hit Castro for being an ugly villain who exacerbated the racial wealth gap. What she didn't say is that the the press release she linked to prove this is about a petition cites no statistics about the racial wealth gap whatsoever but instead is replete with bogus statistics about an HUD program to refinance mortgages. The hitjob was launched in early 2016 by Sanders supporters with the sole goal of keeping Castro from being considered for Hillary Clinton's vice presidential nominee. Bernie Sanders was still in the race, though the writing was on the wall and rabid Bernie-fans were hoping to force Bernie on the ticket. The campaign was so bad that one of Bernie Sanders' top Latino surrogates, Rep. Raul Grijalva - whose letter to HUD the petition-makers used as a launching pad of their smear campaign - had to disown them.

The facts about the HUD program under attack are that it prevented tens of thousands of people - disproportionately people of color - remain in their homes and avoid foreclosures. Under Castro, banks that would buy distressed loans were banned for foreclosing on those properties for 12 months, or from increasing interest rates more than 1 point a year for variable rate mortgages.

Turner knows this. Bernie Sanders knows this. The goal of the Bernie Sanders campaign here is not to debate the merits of a HUD program. Their goal is certainly not to debate the issue of reparations and thereby making white people uncomfortable.

Their goal is to viciously and negatively attack anyone who dares challenge their Cult leader's hypocrisy. Nina Turner, knowingly, opens with a trope about the racial wealth gap against a Latino competitor of Sanders' acting against the interests of African Americans. Nina Turner is trying to manipulate certain perceived divisions between black people and Latinos.

Next, she conflates the issue of reparations - which involves the United States finally taking responsibility for the original sin of slavery - with the "racial wealth gap," insinuating, like her candidate, that the only racial issue that exists in the country is the economic disparity between races. The logical conclusion to this line of argument is that merely doing things that benefit poor white people and the ancillary crumbs those programs extend to black and brown people should count as racial justice.

Turner conveniently, and intentionally, avoids the idea that financial benefits focused solely on the descendants of slaves is needed to repair the injustice of slavery. For all the talk about "handouts" to Wall Street and rich people, Bernie Sanders' campaign will drag Bernie's toenail across a mile-wide chalkboard just to not talk about targeted hand-ups to people of color. After all, what if the next question after reparations for slavery is about monetary compensations to other groups subjected to long term, systemic oppression on smaller scales? That will really piss off Bernie's base.

Bernie Sanders and his surrogates will happily talk about the western European nations that provide universal health care to their people by writing checks, but don't you dare point out the fact that Germany, to this day, pays reparation payments to holocaust survivors and their families.

It shouldn't go unnoticed that by accusing President Obama's final HUD secretary of selling out to Wall Street, Bernie's campaign is using a very thin veil go after President Obama and his historic presidency. Turner is signaling that Bernie Sanders plans to blame President Obama for the economic predicament of people of color who suffered the most from the Great Recession. The Great Recession increased the wealth gap, and since Obama was handed the bludgeoned economy to deal with, Sanders, like Republicans, plans on blaming Obama for it without any mention of fact that President Obama made major wealth transfers from the rich to the poor and the middle class possible through extended unemployment, health care reform, banking reform, student loan reform, and other major initiatives.

This is Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign strategy. He will, on the one side of his mouth, tell everyone else not to belittle him or conduct any opposition research on him (you wouldn't want oppo research on yourself either if you have a history of being a 30-year backbencher in Congress with a fairly racist record). And on the other side, he will send out campaign surrogates - black and brown ones, preferably - to distract from his racist hypocrisy and to silence, demean and bludgeon not just his Democratic opponents but the last successful Democratic presidency.

Julian Castro was right to point our Bernie's hypocrisy on reparations. Julian Castro was right to say that it rings hollow for Bernie to want to write checks for all his ambitious socialism but not for reparations. Julian Castro drove the knife to the heart of Bernie Sanders' racism, and sending out token campaign surrogate who happens to be a woman of color will not veil that racism any better than the parading out of Lynne Patton veiled Trump's.

We will not be silenced. We will not be bullied.