Getty Images

Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, wants Bernie Sanders to know that being black does not automatically mean that you grew up poor or living in the ghetto.

During last weekend's Democratic debate, CNN's Don Lemon asked Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about what their "racial blind spots" were. Sanders responded by admitting that he, like most white people, “[didn’t] know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto," adding that they "don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

While Sanders probably meant to convey the idea that he was cognizant of the ways in which structural inequality and racism affect black people, many took issue with his statement's unintended implications.

“We need a president who understands Black families don’t all live in ghettos," Fulton said in a press release circulated by the Clinton campaign."[Someone] who has a plan to end the racial violence that too often plagues families like mine—not someone who says that ‘guns from Vermont are not the same thing as guns in Chicago’ because they are not ‘used for kids in gangs killing other kids or people shooting at police officers.’"

Fulton's son, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman on February 26th, 2012 in what many believe was a racially-motivated confrontation. Zimmerman, then a 28-year-old man neighborhood watchman, shot the unarmed teenager after determining that he was behaving "suspiciously." Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted of the murder despite the fact that local police authorities had instructed him to leave Martin alone before the shooting.


To his credit, Sanders attempted to clarify his statements yesterday, explaining that what he meant to say way that "when you talk about ghettos, traditionally what you’re talking about is African-American communities.”

This answer, too, was somewhat tone-deaf, but not entirely incorrect in terms of the way that people use the word "ghetto" in relation to black people.


As Janell Ross accurately pointed out for The Washington Post, both Lemon's question and Sanders's answer were poorly thought out. Blind spots, by definition, are things that a person can neither see nor accurately assess about themselves. Also, statistically speaking, there are more white people living in poverty than black people in the U.S. because there are just a lot more white folks here overall.

These are all facts that Bernie Sanders probably knows, but his inability to articulate them correctly was more than enough to prompt Fulton to double down on her support of Clinton.


"Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who doesn’t reduce our community to a caricature," Fulton said. "Which is a key reason why she must be our next president.”