Don’t mess with the ‘misfit black girls’

Someone named Jason Johnson, a commentator on MSNBC (that is one of the most anti-Sanders mainstream media outlets) and elsewhere, has been promoting the idea that the Bernie Sanders campaign is largely supported by ‘racist white liberals’. This is of course a variation on the Bernie bros narrative that originated in 2015 despite the lack of a strong evidentiary basis and was heavily promoted by Hillary Clinton’s supporters during the 2016 campaign. The originator of the term Robinson Meyer expressed some regret in 2016 for coining a term that had exploded well beyond the very limited usage he had originally intended, especially since the Sanders coalition has grown to be so wide and diverse.

So here I am: The prodigal father has returned. And I think I have a solution to all this—or, at least, to the Berniebro problem. The Berniebrosplosion doesn’t betray a unique crisis in civility, nor a long-term problem for the Democratic base. It signifies, rather, something much simpler: category collapse.

The Internet is impoverished of vocabulary. People want to describe the emerging Sanders coalition, yet when they reach their hands behind the veil of language, they come out grasping only “Berniebro.”

However, the term has been resurrected again by critics of Sanders who are terrified that Sanders will win the Democratic nomination. Johnson also spoke disparagingly of the black women who are supporting Sanders as coming from ‘the island of misfit black girls’. The use of the word ‘girls’ itself is a sign of his deep condescension towards women and his attack has outraged them because they see themselves as part of a very diverse coalition supporting Sanders’s candidacy.

Some of Sanders’s supporters have embraced the insult and have launched the hashtag #MisfitBlackGirls and have posted about their support for Sanders, such as the ones below.

Johnson reflects the kind of attack that the women and people of color who work on the Sanders campaign face from critics, even though the Sanders coalition is one of the most diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, and age.

But don’t pay attention to people like Johnson. Look over there! Someone ostensibly supporting Sanders is saying something mean about another candidate. Must be one of those dreaded ‘Bernie bros’ who is destroying civility and democracy itself!


  1. says

    I must say, Mano, it’s obnoxious that you claim there is a “lack of a strong evidentiary basis” for BernieBros and then shortly after you post a tweet from Krystal Ball, an obvious BernieBro. (Yes, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, women can be BernieBros. People of color can be, too. Though I do acknowledge the majority of BernieBros I have encountered have probably been white men, if not Russian bots. I won’t deny there could be Russian bots out there, too. But Krystal Ball, for example, is a real person.)
    I was also extremely disappointed last week when you suggested Bernie had “hit back at the ‘Bernie bros’ narrative.” He really didn’t. He gave BernieBros a free pass. Mano, as someone who is critical of the Catholic Church, you should know better. My gosh, if the Pope were to come out and say, “Pedophiles are not welcome in our Church! We don’t want them. But I’m not so sure, to be honest with you, that they are necessarily part of our Church,” we’d all be commenting on how absurd a statement that is. But…then we all acknowledge the Catholic Church has a problem. A Catholic that thinks their church is the greatest church on earth that believes accusations of pedophilia “lack of a strong evidentiary basis” and are part of an anti-Catholic agenda will probably see such a statement as “hitting back on the pedophile priest narrative.”
    So I think that’s the problem here. As someone who is occasionally critical of Bernie, I have encountered the BernieBro firsthand. Mano, as someone who has seldom, if ever, said anything negative about Bernie has probably never been on the receiving end of the BernieBro menace.* Seriously, I think a lot of Bernie supporters need to be applying some sort of outsider test for faith. They need to be asking “How would this look to someone who currently is not supporting Bernie?”
    With that, I found Amanda Marcotte’s article from yesterday to contain very good advice for both the pro- and anti-Bernie crowds. I suggest reading the whole thing, but I really want to point out here paragraph on gaslighting:

    Don’t gaslight. Bernie Bros are real. So are the hysterical anti-Bernie people. If someone is feeling aggrieved by either category of people, it does no good to tell them they’re imagining things. That’s just going to make them angrier and more defensive. Instead of getting into a Trump-pleasing bicker-fest over the exact size and scope of a problem, or policing whether someone else is “allowed” to be irritated, find something else to do with your time. Take a walk, read a book and, hey, maybe volunteer for the candidate you support.

    With that, the other problem I have with all of this is Bernie’s slogan this time around is “Us, not me.” Yet, so many Bernie supporters (not just necessarily the BernieBros) make so much of it about him. Even here, on the topic of black women supporting Bernie, it’s not about us, it’s about how diverse Bernie‘s supporters are. Please realize how this messaging goes so counter to the message that we should be sending, which is that progressive policies are good for society. Instead, this all comes off as “Bernie is like the next coming of Jesus! Look at the diversity of his followers!” It’s frustrating to watch. I don’t know if I can stress that enough. And this whole establishment vs. Bernie thing is getting tiresome, too. I think Mano has given us a good visual for how this feels to some of us. (Sorry, I’m not sure how, if it’s even possible, to get a tweet into a comment.)

    In short, we need more posts like this (but, even here, it could have ended on promoting Medicare for All independent of an individual, but, surprise (sarcasm, obviously), it had to be about Bernie and his proposal in particular) and fewer on these Bernie v. the establishment spats.

    * I do want to acknowledge, though, that I have never personally been harassed by a BernieBro (or at least I wouldn’t call it harassment). Much of what I’ve seen is cult-like behavior where if one doesn’t believe Bernie is flawless or doesn’t believe all of Bernie’s opponents, often including Warren, are corrupt members of the “establishment,” the BernieBro crowd will engage in insults. It’s problematic because they make it clear any sort of dissent is unwelcome. I shouldn’t need to explain any further why that is a problem. I do have to admit, though, I’m not unsympathetic to the insult crowd. Sometimes anti-Bernie people say things so absurd, like Chris Matthews and others comparing him to Nazis, that it seems like they’re not worthy of anything else but insults. Why bother with rational arguments with someone who is clearly irrational? Yet, I’ve encountered people who have suggested I cannot be very smart because I live in the shithole state of Iowa (their words) simply for telling them that, sorry, Buttigieg was indeed popular here in Iowa, even though the polls weren’t necessarily showing it, and there’s no reason to believe there was an establishment conspiracy against Bernie. Buttigieg disgusts me, but for simply acknowledging that he has duped other people into actually liking him, I’ve been treated like that by Bernie supporters.
    With that, I’m done on this topic. I want to take Amanda’s advice and do something else. I don’t want to talk about the BernieBros anymore. I’m sick of talking about them. I just worry they’re the biggest threat to getting Bernie elected. As a progressive, I’ll more than gladly vote for Bernie if he does end up the nominee. I’ll shrug off the BenieBros who suggest I’m dumb since I’m from the shithole state of Iowa. But I worry about the people who aren’t progressive who aren’t completely sold on Bernie. What will they do if they are told, on one hand, that they’re stupid and live in a shithole state by a BernieBro and, on the other, that BernieBros don’t actually exist? We may not have much control over the BernieBros themselves, but we can control our acknowledgement of them.

  2. Porivil Sorrens says

    Imagine wasting your time typing up a rambling screed of anti-Bernie hysteria. Must be awful not to have a hobby.

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