Candidates aspiring to take over as chairman of the Democratic National Committee met Monday night to discuss what went wrong in 2016 and how to get the party back on track.
Early into the event the candidates gravitated toward a particular scapegoat for the party’s poor showing in November: Political consultancies owned by white people.
“We have to stop, particularly with the consultants,” said the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Jaime Harrison. “You cannot come to the DNC and get a contract and the only minority face you have is the person answering the phone.”
Minority consultants “need to get the same resources that the white consultants have gotten,” said a Fox News analyst and candidate for the chairmanship, Jehmu Greene. "The DNC did a piss poor, pathetic job" attracting minorities, she said.
Democrats must provide “training” that focuses in part on teaching Americans “how to be sensitive and how to shut their mouths if they are white,” urged the executive director of Idaho’s Democratic Party, Sally Boynton Brown, who is white.
The event’s moderator, MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid, asked the candidates how the party should handle the Black Lives Now movement.
The candidates uniformly emphasized that the party must embrace the activists unreservedly.
“It makes me sad that we’re even having that conversation and that tells me that white leaders in our party have failed,” Brown said. “I’m a white woman, I don’t get it. … My job is to listen and be a voice and shut other white people down when they want to interrupt.”
“This is life and death” she emphasized. “I am a human being trying to do good work and I can’t do it without y’all. So please, please, please, get ahold of me. Sally at we-the-dnc.org. I need schooling so I can go school the other white people.”
Another candidate said black Americans are now living with “justified fear” of being killed after Donald Trump was elected president.
Raymond Buckley, the chairman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, told a story about how, in the midst of “grieving” on Election Day, he received a call from his black niece, who feared for her life after Trump’s victory.
“It’s not just certain parts of the country,” he said. “That fear is all across the country. It’s even in rural new Hampshire. So when people say black lives matter, you are damn right they matter.”
Asked whether they would agree to work with President Trump, the candidates agreed they would never do so, which drew some applause from the otherwise quiet crowd at George Washington University.
UPDATE: Sally Boynton Brown has responded to the controversy her comments elicited. "Obviously they're being taken out of context," she said Tuesday. “I think that this is the issue we see with fake news. These media outlets take something completely out of context and sensationalize it, and now people across the country are sending me hate mail and thinking I’m saying something that’s not true.”
Boynton Brown, traveling in New York on Tuesday, said that her comments were aimed at racism as “the oldest power structure that we have in this country.”
“We absolutely need to check our own filter,” she said. “And the DNC needs to be making sure that we’re training people on how to listen to our brothers and sisters of color who are sharing their life experience with us."