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Sanders' New Spokesperson Talks About Highlighting Racial Inequality Issues

Ringo H.W. Chiu
Bernie Sanders has been challenged over his platform regarding racial inequality issues, and the campaign recently announced that an African-American woman has been hired as national communications director.

There's a new public voice speaking for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

This week, 25-year-old Symone Sanders — no relation — was brought on as the campaign's new national communications director. She previously worked for a juvenile justice advocacy group.

And she's an African-American — who was hired just as Sanders was facing serious criticism from some members of the Black Lives Matter movement who say he isn't talking enough about issues of race and criminal justice.

Symone Sanders joined VPR to talk about her new role and what it means for the Sanders campaign

On hiring an African-American woman after being challenged by Black Lives Matter protesters:

"I think it’s important to note that I had been in contact with the campaign well before (the protests in Arizona) even happened. I definitely think the senator and his entire campaign staff are being very intentional about hiring a diverse pool of talent and people that do good work. So I don't think it's accurate to say that they sought me out because I'm a young black woman. They sought me out because I’m good at what I do."

On broadening Sanders' message of economic populism now that he's on the national stage:

"I don't necessarily think the role of the message has to change. But again economic inequality is definitely an issue and the senator is highlighting that but I also think what he's done is open up his platform — he said, racial inequality and economic inequality are parallel issues and and they must be addressed simultaneously."

On talking to Sanders about how he needs to change the campaign after the Black Lives Matter protesters: 

"I had the opportunity to speak at length with the senator and when we chatted we talked about everything from education to juvenile justice but we also talked about economic inequality. And I noted and he agreed in our conversations that economic inequality is definitely an issue but perhaps we should highlight racial inequality also because they're parallel issues and he agreed that the issues he noted that there are systematic ways where people of color are being disenfranchised in this nation and we have to do something about it."

On a Vermont African-American leader's criticism of the senatorand invitation for Sanders to spend more time with communities of color in Vermont:

"I'm not going to commit to any sit downs or scheduling things right now but I will say the senator is open to hearing from broad constituencies. He wants to hear particularly about our racial justice issues platform. But what I will say is that these things are not new for Senator Sanders. He has been walking the walk and talking to talk on these issues for a really long time and I'm glad that other people are now starting to get to see his record."

Alex was a reporter and host of VPR's local All Things Considered. He was also the co-host and co-creator of the VPR program Brave Little State.
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