Political strategist Symone Sanders, who served as national press secretary for Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential Campaign, spoke about intersectionality, equality and social movements at Drexel University May 31 in the A.J. Drexel Picture Gallery.
In the talk, which was part of the Campus Activities Board’s second annual CABx, Sanders discussed how civil discourse has devolved in the United States over the past several years in almost all aspects of people’s lives.
“I would venture to say that there is a lack of civil discourse not just in our political conversation or what you see on television, but there is a lack of civil discourse in our communities. One could argue there is a lack of civil discourse on this campus,” Sanders said.
She said this lack of civil discourse springs from the partisan perspectives that are portrayed in the media because a lot of opinions are presented as if they are facts and not ideological beliefs.
Sanders then urged people to introduce civility back into discourse through effective social change, which can be manifested through movements.
She emphasized the importance of intersectionality in an organization trying to start a movement, pressing that people cannot view others based on pieces of who they are; instead, they need to focus on the whole. However, she said that these individual components are still important and must also be acknowledged.
“When we talk about intersectionality, it means that, yes, we acknowledge that there are many parts to people and there are some things we should come together on and we should focus more on the things we can come together on,” Sanders said.
She critiqued the Women’s Rights Movement for its lack of intersectionality, then moved on to how the ways in which people approach conversations can also alter civil discourse.
Sanders explained how important it is to converse with individuals who have opposing views, explaining how one should always approach a political conversation in a manner that is not trying to dominate the other and to always strive for complete understanding in every situation, rather than simply trying to prove the other person wrong.
“We should strive to get to a place of understanding,” she said, noting that it is flawed thinking to do otherwise.
Sanders then explained how the lack of civil discourse is also exasperated by people assigning labels and separating characteristics of individuals from the individuals themselves. She then said that this applies particularly to racial divides, which continue to affect her personally.
“For me, it is always about race because every single time I leave the house, I leave the house as a bald, young black woman. And folks make assumptions about me, my intellect, my ability, things that I believe and make assumptions about where I’m from, what I like to do, what I like to read, who I support, often times just based on them looking at me,” said Sanders.
She shifted the conversation back to intersectionality, which she said helps people define their strengths as they build coalitions in addition to long-term planning. She also explained how strategy and structure are vital components to social planning.
Ultimately, Sanders said people need to be willing to operate as radical revolutionaries who are focused on active engagement to make progress.
“True accomplices are willing to get their hands dirty,” she said.
And she explained how truly dedicated advocates don’t show up merely when it’s convenient; they have to be consistently motivated and they cannot get distracted by other looming political stories.
It also comes down to innovation and doing things that have never been done before, Sanders said.
She ended the discussion with a poem that related to this theme called “The Things That Haven’t Been Done Before” by Edgar A. Guest.
“The things that haven’t been done before are the tasks worthwhile today,” she urged, reading the poem.