Bernie Sanders Says United States Was Founded On 'Racist Principles'
On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders spoke before a crowd in Lynchburg, Virginia at Liberty University, the largest evangelical Christian university in the world.
As Vox highlights, Liberty is widely viewed as a conservative stronghold, making Sanders' appearance there particularly notable given his unabashed liberal perspectives.
Sanders has never shied away from speaking his mind, regardless of the consequences. Many find this approach to politics refreshing, which is a large part of the reason he's been able to garner significant support for his campaign.
His uninhibited rhetoric was once again on display as he spoke at Liberty, especially during the Q&A session.
Senator Sanders was asked,
If you were elected president, what would you do to bring healing and resolution to the issue of racism in our country?
That is an excellent question... I would hope and I believe that every person in this room today understands that it is unacceptable to judge people, to discriminate against people based on the color of their skin. And I would also say that as a nation, the truth is, that a nation which in many ways was created, and I'm sorry to have to say this, from way back on racist principles -- that's a fact -- we have come a long way as a nation.
Sanders did highlight, however, the election of President Obama in 2008 is indicative of the progress we made as a nation in regards to race.
But, he also made it clear racism is still alive and well in this country, and it has to be actively combatted.
The Founding Fathers of the United States are often deified in discussions of the country's past. For this reason, Sanders' comments surrounding the racist foundations of this country will likely be met with criticism. That doesn't necessarily mean the Democratic presidential candidate's statements were false.
Let's consider the fact that even though the Declaration of Independence stated, "All men are created equal," the transatlantic slave trade wasn't outlawed until 1808, and slavery persisted until 1865.
Indeed, black people in the US were considered property for hundreds of years and originally deemed three-fifths of a person by the Constitution.
Many of the Founding Fathers were slave owners. George Washington, America's first president, freed his slaves posthumously, choosing to own other human beings as long as he could still breathe.
America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, owned 175 slaves when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. In his will, Jefferson only emancipated five of his slaves, indicating he was pro-slavery even after death.
These are just several examples of early institutional racism that persists in other ways in the US today. You reap what you sow.
Sanders is probably the first presidential candidate in history to be so blunt about America's history.
It was a bold move but also an important one. Progress is impossible without honest conversations about the past and its impact on the present.
Watch a video of Senator Sanders' statements below.