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Allies should learn when to speak up and when to step aside

Why Bernie Sanders’ decision to drop out of the Women’s Convention is beneficial

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Allies should learn when to speak up and when to step aside

Written By Autumn Barszczowski, Business Manager

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Within the past week, organizers of the Women’s Convention in Detroit announced that Bernie Sanders would be one of the event’s opening speakers. Since this announcement he has dropped out of the convention in order to visit Puerto Rico following the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

However, it is still important to discuss the fact that this news was met with confusion and concern as many began to consider why the organizers chose Sanders to speak.

When I heard about the original announcement, I was immediately thrown back to my senior year history class on women’s rights. We spent that semester talking about topics like religion, violence and how power plays a large role in the way our society treats women. It was one of the most memorable classes I have taken.

Before I continue, I’d like to give a shout out to my high school teacher for opening up this series of discussions on women’s rights and giving high school seniors the opportunity to discuss the ongoing problems in our society. There are not many teachers who are willing to sit and discuss topics like rape and other forms of violence on a weekly basis. Your students will forever be grateful for the knowledge they gained.

But in the end, this course was not flawless, as nothing truly is. The one problem I had was that our source material was “A Call to Action” by Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States. While the topics in his book are prevalent issues for women’s rights on a global level, there are times where these topics should be discussed through the perspective of those affected by these issues.

I am always one to advocate for bringing allies of these oppressed groups into important conversations and utilizing their privilege to spread the message about these issues; however, there are times where we should be listening to the people who are experiencing these issues in their day-to-day lives.

Just as my history class would have benefited from source material written by women of various backgrounds, the Women’s Convention will benefit from focusing on the women speakers that they are hosting. Events like these are meant to be a platform for those to tell their stories and have people learn about the struggles being faced on a daily basis.

When you bring in a name like Sanders, you are inadvertently diverting attention away from the women who will be at the event.

People will be drawn to this event to hear him speak despite losing in the primaries during the 2016 presidential election, and the message this convention is trying to send will be lost in the shuffle to see what Sanders will say.

Sanders is an important activist for the midterm elections happening next year and for many of the issues that are being challenged during Donald Trump’s term as president.

We need him to headline for many of these issues, but there are times where he needs to step aside and allow for other voices to be heard. People like Sanders are helping us to navigate this tough political climate but we have to recognize what times are appropriate for him to be included and when we should focus on new perspectives.

Those who are familiar with Sanders know how he views the world and the experiences that brought him to this point; but there are plenty of women who are itching to share their stories and to become the storytellers that we need in this crisis. Sanders’ open spot at the convention is the perfect stage for these perspectives to be heard and we should allow them to have this opportunity.

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