With Black Lives Matter activists disrupting several of his recent campaign events, the news that civil rights activist Cornel West has endorsed Bernie Sanders is a significant achievement for the Vermont senator's campaign. West, who has been a supporter of Black Lives Matter and other causes dating back several decades, expressed his support for "Brother Bernie Sanders" in a series of tweets, The New York Times reported. "Now is the time for his prophetic voice to be heard across our crisis-ridden country," West tweeted.
Twice this summer, Black Lives Matter protesters have disrupted Sanders' public appearances, the first time at Netroots Nation in July. Sanders replied to the protesters that he had "spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and dignity." Then earlier this month, two protesters took the microphone from Sanders on stage at a rally in Seattle, telling the audience to "join us now in holding Bernie Sanders accountable" on racial issues.
While it's certainly a bonus for Sanders to have such a high-profile endorsement from a prominent civil rights leader, West has his detractors within the African-American community, mainly due to his harsh criticism of President Obama during the 2012 election as being out of touch on social issues. Obama retains high approval ratings among black voters, The International Business Times reported.
In a Facebook post, West compared Sanders to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, calling both "authentic human beings" compared to their "donor-driven" opponents in their respective parties. "Yet only Bernie has authenticity and integrity, whereas Trump is for real but not for right," West wrote.
West has publicly stated he does not want to see Hillary Clinton in the White House. "I'm not a Hillary Clinton fan at all," he said in a June television interview. And West made it clear in his Facebook post that his endorsement of Sanders was not a recognition of what he called the "neo-liberal Democratic party."
Derrick Harkins, a colleague of West's at Union Theological Seminary in New York, told the IB Times that despite the weight of this endorsement, Sanders and any other candidate will have to work hard to earn the trust of black voters, no matter who he or she has in their corner.
Cornel West's support for Bernie Sanders is important, and speaks to the development of clearer message of racial justice on Sanders’ part. However, Bernie Sanders still has work to do to prove that he is the candidate that will best reflect the values of [the Black Lives Matter movement].
So while he should celebrate this show of support, Sanders still has work to do with black voters who want to be reassured that the next Commander-in-Chief will hear their concerns and take action for them, too.