“I rap about a lot of stuff that you rant about,” opens Killer Mike, seated across from Vermont Senator and Presidential-hopeful, Bernie Sanders, in an Atlanta barbershop, one of the last venues where black men can speak comfortably about their views without persecution. The first episode of this six-part series begins with haste, putting the controversial right out in the open, in a candid conversation between the self-proclaimed Democratic-Socialist and the prominent Atlanta rapper.
“What is Socialism and what does it mean to the black community?,” Michael Render, aka Killer Mike, poses to Sanders, before assessing that FDR passed socialist legislation with the enactment of the New Deal during a Depression very similar to the current state of our economy now. An prime example of this most-feared Socialist legislation? The creation of social security, an income plan for seniors which may not exist in 50 years given heightening restrictions. In this capacity, “Socialism” is the redistribution of wealth by the government to fund social services, services that Sanders argues are basic human rights.
The 71-year-old Senator points out that we have a McCarthian view of Socialism, the negative connotation acting as a misnomer that is distracting Americans from voting for real change. “In the richest country in the history of the world,” says Sanders when asked of what Democratic-Socialism means for his platform, “that everyone at least has a minimal standard of living.” In order to be truly free, a citizen must have basic economic rights: food, education, basic health care, pay equity to women and minorities, and a living wage. A belief that rings true with 67% of Americans, garnering him a total of $2 million in independent donations, all done with minimal media coverage and no contributions from corporations. Sanders argues that the richest country in the world ought to be able to provide basic economic rights to our people, rights provided for citizens of many other first world countries. He argues that without these rights, our basic constitutional freedoms make no difference.
“We’re taking on the world.”
Citizens United, a major talking point in Sanders’ campaign, reveals a looming fear that politicians are being bought and corporate lobbyists are doing all the legwork for legislation. And through Citizens United, it is 100% legal. As of a court ruling in 2009, Citizens United allows for corporations to count as individual donors during political fundraisers, sometimes called “dark money,” because these millions in private campaign funds are housed in “super PACs” by corporations. As such, a private company does not have to publicly disclose this money.
Five years later, this allowance for private donation from billionaire “persons” has rigged our legal system in the favor of corporate greed. Bernie Sanders has renounced privately-assembled super PACs at every turn and has publicly disclosed all of his $2 million in independent donations. Yet people are still skeptical, and vote in favor of corporate-backed politicians, even though the policies they enact into law do not benefit us. “People are voting against their own best interest,” remarks Killer Mike in response to Sanders' citing “greed” as a pervasive mantra for the delusional middle class, “We have such a worship, or a theory that ‘I’m going to be a millionaire someday.’ But when is that day going to come?”
Critically-acclaimed author of bathroom literature, Help! I’m In Ghost Hell and How To Cheat People Out Of Money By Buying This Book, Anastasia (aka Z-Bam) is what some people might call a quintuple threat. A classically-trained kazooist, radio host, expert sneezer, music writer and cheese patriot, Ana has been doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well since 1990. “And she just keeps on doin’ it!,” says strange woman and unsuspecting mother of Ana, “She just won’t give it a rest already.” Aside from things she does to forage for food, Ana also enjoys: food, cheese, ice cream, dairy, lactaid tablets, irony, and proposing to people she doesn't know just-in-case one of them is an undercover millionaire. Get a show-stopping glimpse of Ana’s in-person talents by tuning-in to her latest television program, Why Does That Person Keep Looking At Me?.
Among the issues discussed in the hour-long candid convo, Bernie and Mike discuss the prison industrial complex, corporate greed, immigration, loss of our “brain trust” via eradication of art and trade taught in schools, free health care as an unoriginal idea (Canada has been doing it since 1946) and America’s downward dip into accepting apathy as a defense from overwhelming race, class, sexuality, and gender inequity.
A pervasive theme throughout the interview, primed by their location in the birth city of activist Martin Luther King, Jr., is Civil Rights. Sanders describes a common scenario, still prevalent in some form today: “What they said [to the lowest paid white workers in the country during the 50s] is that ‘you can go to that water fountain and drink and the black guy can’t. Man! You got it good! Meanwhile we’re paying you nothing!’” Replace blacks and whites and water fountains with Americans and Muslims and airports, and you have a similar scenario. Making people choose teams, dividing straights from gays, women from men, blacks from whites, immigrants from legalized citizens, diminishes our collective voting power. It is a scare tactic meant to distract Americans from what is happening in our own country, right under our noses.
“That has been what the ruling class has done over and over again. Why? Because they understand when we come together, we fight for decent wages, we fight for education for our kids, we fight to strengthen social security, we win, hands down. But if they divide us up, they win.”
How can you protest when you’re hungry? How can you fight when you’re weak? Killer Mike connects the pieces of the fair wage problem. Americans are working longer hours than ever before but struggling to make ends meet. The rate of inflation of standard of living is not equivocal to the inflation of pay, rendering mothers and fathers fiscally unable to spend time in the home raising their children. When you account for the death of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee an equal rate of pay between men and women, equal pay and a living wage is an issue that affects everyone, especially working class women and their children. Killer Mike points out a link to crime amongst minority families that is widely-accepted as synonymous with race. This is purely circumstantial and not causal; a cycle of poverty beginning with limited access to birth control and ending with overworked parents who can’t be in the home to care for and motivate their children. These children continue this cycle of poverty as they coast through public schools' laxed educational system, struggling to keep the pace with families who can support their children because they work less. A living wage would reduce the urgency and necessity required to simply survive.
“Democrats win when people vote, Republicans win when nobody votes. […] The only way Democrats win is when young people and working class people start coming out and voting.”
Watch the entire conversation here.
Image via Talking Shop w/ Bernie Sanders.
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