Standing in the gap: a means for societal change
Symone Sanders, a Democratic strategist and political commentator for CNN who is best known for having served as the national press secretary for Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign, delivered a cultural enrichment lecture to students in Mitchell Hall titled “Bold Radical Revolutionaries.”
The program was a collaboration between the Cultural Programming Advisory Board (CPAB) and the Center for Black Culture (CBC).
Sanders said that in order to make social change happen, citizens need to stand in the gap and be willing to take risks in order to achieve our goal.
Sanders opened up her talk by presenting the concept of what she called “radical revolutionaries.” The phrase refers to individuals who have made a difference in radical ways. She began with a talk about Martin Luther King Jr. to start.
Sanders said he was willing to do things never done before and that she prefers the post-1965 Dr. King.
This version of King was a man dedicated to eradicating the slums and eliminating the wealth disparity in the United States, according to NPR.
Sanders continued on with an anecdote. While serving as B. Sanders’ press secretary, Sanders said she dealt with frequent racism and sexism. Sanders said a police officer nearly arrested her because he didn’t know she was B. Sanders’ secretary.
The campaign’s travel agent, who Sanders referred to only as “Paul” to protect his identity, was present and tried to defuse the situation. The Secret Service and campaign manager were also present.
“[Paul] was the only one who tried to do anything. I’m not saying that the Secret Service thought what the trooper did was okay, but they didn’t do anything,” Sanders said.
Sanders called Paul’s interference “standing in the gap,” which means not succumbing to the bystander effect, a social psychology concept in which individuals will not offer help if other people are present. She said bystanders must being willing to take risks and “to buck the status quo.”
Sanders said she does not object to delegating, but finds it to be an insufficient solution. Sanders argues that change requires being forward and treating it as urgently as possible.
Sanders addressed Ralph Northam, the current governor of Virginia who sparked controversy when he was shown wearing blackface in his medical school yearbook. Northam was just the first in a chain of Virginia politicians currently under fire for blackface or sexual assault.
Sanders said Jake Tapper, CNN’s chief Washington correspondent, asked her beforehand how she felt about Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor of Virginia who was accused of sexual assault shortly after the Northam controversy. She previously worked with Fairfax and respected him as a friend.
“Anyone who does something bad, whether it’s sexual assault or blackface, doesn’t deserve the right to serve,” she told Tapper.
Sanders concluded with what she coined as the “designated survivor theory.” She derived this theory from the television show of the same name and refers to the unlikely event that only one person is left alive to run the country. She tied this into her overall theme that it takes just one person with motivation and abilities to create social change.