"Not for us": Why Queens residents are fed up with Bernie's "pretty white rally" in a gentrifying neighborhood

This past weekend, Bernie Sanders held a rally in Queens, New York with freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, hoping to capitalize on AOC's endorsement to breath new life into a campaign limping on with a candidate recovering from a heart attack. The campaign dubbed the event "Bernie is back". AOC is the youngest member of Congress and represents a movement to a more diverse Congress, and the drive to brand the event as 'diverse' was intense. At the end of the event, the campaign put out the word that 25,000 people had attended, and that it was a great success. Bernie was back. All was well.

So they thought.

But in true Bernie fashion, the campaign representing itself as the lone hope of the poor didn't bother to properly involve the community they were about to cause a massive disruption in. The self-proclaimed personification of racial, economic, and social justice did not bother to work with community leaders of the predominantly black and Latino poor people who live in the area and whose housing project would earn a mention in Sanders's speech.

That, at least, is the take of much of the community at the Queensbridge Housing Project, located stone's throw from the rally location on the other side of Queensbridge.

According to the president of the Queensbridge Tenants Association, the campaign contacted the association just a day before the rally. The people at the rally weren't from the community, looked like tourists, and were attending what was a "pretty white" event that "wasn't for us", local community leaders told the local news media.

That might be an important detail, because as the New York Times notes, the rally was held at "a gentrifying slice of Queens". Like many neighborhoods that once boasted ethnic and economic diversity now facing the displacement of longtime poor and predominantly black and brown people, the residents of Queensbridge has been facing rising challenges from gentrification for years. While the issues that combine to create gentrification - housing affordability, migration, wage gaps, devaluation of non-tech work - are big and complex, high-income, largely white millennials are a key constituency for Sanders.

The Sanders campaign hit back against the accusations that they did not involve the community, saying that they tried to contact the Tenants Association and posted flyers. When asked by local media for a copy of the flyer, though, the campaign went silent. The campaign also wouldn't say just where those flyers were posted.

Some might say there were no flyers.

Nobody should be surprised. This is how Bernie Sanders rolls. People of color and poor people are the icing for him, not the cake. He likes to show off people of color who support him like Donald Trump likes to show off Kanye, but does not possess the leadership capacity to put the needs of black, brown and poor people in the front burner. They are nice for show, but not allowed to get in Bernie's way.

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