In the latest episode of BET Digital’s “Black Coffee,” Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders joined Marc Lamont Hill and Gia Peppers to talk about his plans for the future of our nation.
Back in 2016, Sanders energized an entire movement of voters, most of whom were millennials, when he decided to take on Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. Although Sanders was unsuccessful in securing a spot on the ticket, there’s no doubt that people across the country were “feeling the Bern.”
During the show Thursday, Peppers asked Sanders why he thinks his message resonated so strongly with young voters.
“People say, ‘You must be really smart, you figured this out,’ and we didn’t,” Sanders began. “We didn’t spend five minutes talking about ‘How are we going to appeal to younger voters,’ we just did what we do.”
“The younger generation today is the most progressive generation in the history of this country. This generation is more anti-racist, anti-homophobia, anti-sexist, etc, so we were tapping into the idealism of a generation who said, ‘Why can’t we recreate America,” Sanders added.
The senator then went on to explain how the idealism of today’s youth will not be reflected in the standard of living for the average millennial.
“You have people out there who are leaving school deeply in debt, you have people out there who are earning less money than their parents did, people who can’t afford to buy their own first home. So a lot of people are saying, ‘This economy is supposed to be doing great, why are we hurting?’”
The disparity in living between millennials and their parents is one of the major reasons why Sanders believes young people jumped on board with his campaign.
While Sanders has performed well within some Black communities, he admits his campaign must do more to fight for African-Americans.
“What are the issues that are out there that we have to address? You have approximately 40% of African-American workers working for wages lower than $15 an hour, that is a disgrace. We are going to raise the minimum wage to fifteen bucks an hour, which will have a significant impact on the African-American community. We are going to make it much easier for workers to join unions, which will affect everybody, disproportionately the African-American community,” he told Hill and Peppers.
“We’re going to cancel student debt in America by putting a tax on Wall Street speculation, that will, again, affect everyone, disproportionately the African-American community. We are going to do what every other major country does and that is guarantee health care as a human right,” he said.
“We are going to pay attention in a way that no one has ever seen before to environmental degradation, above and beyond climate change. Those kids in the African-American community have more asthma than the population at large because the air that they’re breathing is often very polluted. So I would say that our agenda, which is going to fight institutional racism, is an agenda that will work for the African-American community,” he added.
Then Sanders pivoted to the student debt crisis and revealed his plans to get rid of debt for millions of Americans.
“Within six months, student loan debt will be canceled for 45 million Americans. Now, I’ve been criticized for this, but I think your generation was told you have to go to college, then when they got out of school, many of the jobs were not paying them the kinds of wages that they needed to pay off this debt.”
When asked how Sanders plans to actually eradicate student loan debt for so many people, he explained that he will propose a small tax on Wall Street speculation.
“We are going to ask Wall Street to pay less than one half of one percent in additional taxes to pay public colleges tuition-free and make lower-income students debt-free.”
Sanders’ ideas for the Black community served as the perfect transition for Hill to ask about reparations.
“Do you support policies that are specifically targeted to American descendants of slaves?” Hill asked.
“Absolutely. I’m a cosponsor, along with Cory Booker, on a study on reparations. It’s terribly important to understand the impact of slavery,” Sanders began.
“My preferred solution is to focus on 10-20-30 legislation, which is focusing on a very substantial amount of federal money on distressed communities. That means rebuilding schools, making sure there is decent housing, making sure everybody has health care. Right now we have massive racial disparities in this country,” he said.
Then Hill chimed in and said 10-20-30 legislation is not the same as policies exclusively for Black people who are descendants of slaves.
“So I’m going to return to the initial question, which is: Do you support policies that are specifically targeted for these groups?” Hill asked.
“What we have to focus on in terms of health care and housing, we need to end redlining. We need to make sure there is equal funding, not just equal funding but more funding for those distressed communities that are Black,” Sanders responded.
Sanders also spoke about how there is a dire need for criminal justice reform, especially when it comes to non-violent drug offenses.
“According to studies, the white and Black community smoke marijuana at the same levels, but Blacks are more likely to be arrested. Is that racist? Yes.”
Sanders then went on to talk about how he supports expunging the records of those who were convicted on marijuana charges, just as several states have already done. The senator then went further to explain how he hopes to reform every aspect of the justice system, specifically the concept of cash bail.
“I’ve worked with Shaun King, who raised one issue, and that is we have about two million people in jail today. 20 percent of those people are in jail right now. Do you know what their crime is? Their crime is that they’re poor. They don’t have bail money. These are people who are arrested, not convicted, but can’t get out because they can’t afford it,” Sanders began.
“We are going to end cash bail. We have to ask why we have so many people in jail. One of the main reasons is we are not investing in young people, we are not investing in job training, we are not investing in education. So we are going to get to a place where we can so loudly and proudly that no child fell through the crack and saw their life destroyed. We don’t need more jails, we do need to make sure our kids are getting the education and job training that they need.”
Click here to see Sanders talk about these issues and many more in the latest episode of “Black Coffee.”