Culture Feature

Boots Riley Drops Major Truth Bombs in Endorsement for Bernie Sanders

Boots Riley recognizes the need for radical direct action––Because without radical direct action, nobody will listen and nothing will change.


Boots Riley, the activist, rapper, writer, and director behind Sorry to Bother You–the most underrated movie of 2018 (although that's to be expected from majority white mainstream media when it comes to a biting satire about code switching and capitalist enslavement of black people)–has taken to Twitter with his endorsement of Bernie Sanders.

In a phenomenal thread spanning 33 tweets, Riley lays out his reasoning behind supporting Sanders, despite the fact that he has never previously voted for a presidential candidate. His words speak to the experiences of many Sanders' supporters (especially circa 2016) and reflect the ideological core that sets leftists apart from liberals.

Riley's thread outlines his belief that in order to have actual "democracy," we need to live in "a world in which the people democratically control the wealth that we create with our labor."

Riley recognizes the need for leftist activists, or "radicals," to push us in that direction through direct action––Because without direct action, nobody will listen. Riley traces movements that fall in this vein, from the Anti-Iraq War movement (whereby millions of people took to the streets but were ineffective in convincing anyone with the necessary power to stop the war) to the Occupy Movement (which brought discussions of capitalism and the 1% into the mainstream public conscience) to Black Lives Matter (which spoke out against cops disregarding the lives of black people and ultimately proved that even communal anger rarely results in any action from those in power).

"We must have movements with teeth," Riley says. "Ones that are able to force the hands of power."

To this end, Riley sees value in radical, militant labor movements wherein workers organize to strike in solidarity and in large enough numbers to shut down business. Riley points to Wayfair furniture workers' successful strike to stop the company from working with ICE and 20,000 Google workers rolling work stoppage walkouts to force management into addressing issues including workplace sexual harassment.

In a hyper-capitalist society, collective movements with the power to shut down industries by withholding labor might very well be the only way to ensure representation and effect change.

Ultimately, Riley clarifies that he doesn't necessarily agree with Bernie on every single thing but that Bernie is the only candidate propped up by a movement consisting of millions of actual working class people who are actively banding together to engage in necessary class struggle.

Funnily enough, another Twitter user presumably read through Riley's entire thread and still said, "I like what you're saying here. Will you show up to vote for any of the other candidates if Bernie doesn't win the nomination?"

To which Riley concisely responded, "Nope."

Many, many people, especially working class people who fall along various lines of intersectionality, do not feel represented in American politics. Donald Trump may be an especially rancid embodiment of the racism and corporate greed at America's political core, but we can't pretend that centrist Democrats have the best interest of working class people at heart either, even if their social policies are slightly better.

The truth is that most politicians on both sides of the aisle are bought out by corporate interests, lobbyists, and the uber-wealthy––or, alternatively, fall into the uber-wealthy class themselves, and they aim to use their vast wealth to buy their way into government positions. None of these politicians, with their corporate donors or billions of dollars, give two sh*ts about people who work full-time and can barely afford rent and food.

But that's the beauty of a grassroots movements like the one surrounding Bernie Sanders. His supporters aren't corporations and lobbyists. They're working class people who are sick and tired of not being represented in American government––not just by Trump, but by the entire two-party system. There's a reason that, despite Bernie Sanders leading all other democratic candidates in support from non-white voters (not to mention overall support), mainstream corporate media has continued to bash him at every turn while continually posting op-eds with headlines like, "It's time to give the elites a bigger say in choosing the president."

Don't get tricked into believing that having a common enemy in Trump automatically puts leftists and liberals on the same side. The liberals who support candidates like Biden, Buttigieg, and especially Bloomberg–insisting that everyone must be united to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 while parroting the racist, sexist Bernie Bro myth to erase the women and POC who support Sanders in massive numbers–are the same breed of "white moderate" that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned about:

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a 'more convenient season.'"

Nobody is obligated to "hold their nose" and vote for a transphobic, racist, sexist like Mike Bloomberg, and doing so isn't such a far cry from all the Trump voters who claimed to dislike the things Trump says but voted for him anyways. Moreover, there's practically a zero percent chance that Bernie won't have a plurality of delegates going into the Democratic National Convention, especially considering his overwhelming support among individual voters. Nominating anyone other than Bernie in this case would prove that the DNC isn't aligned with the American people, so take heed. If the DNC wants to force a choice between oligarchs, they should prepare for a lot of people to abstain.

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Australian DIY pop artist Airports, AKA Aaron Lee, releases "U FEEL IT 2," following on the heels of his dreamy lo-fi banger, "Don't Sleep Anymore."

Aaron explains the double entendre of the song, "It started out being written as a song about a haunting relationship with depression in contrast to uplifting music, but when some of the lyrics started to spill out I realized I was also writing about positive romantic feelings for my partner." Featuring bleeding synths, blushing harmonies, and Aaron's velvety falsetto, "U FEEL IT 2" is a perfect summer anthem.

U Feel It 2

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The Oscars are bullsh*t, and it's hard to understand why anybody watches them anymore.

I say this as someone who absolutely adores movies. Heck, I majored in film and I write about entertainment every single day. But for the life of me, I just don't get why anybody who isn't a Hollywood celebrity would care about such a masturbatory award show.

Theoretically, an Academy Award should be the highest honor in film––an award given to the year's absolute best movie, as chosen by the people who best understand the medium. In practice though, the Academy is overwhelmingly white (84%) and male (69%), chock full of racist opinions, and heavily influenced by whichever movie's marketing team runs the most expensive Oscar campaign.

Want to hear a Hollywood secret? A large chunk of voters don't even watch every movie, especially for less high-profile categories like "Best Short Film (Live Action)." The truth is that, like many other things in America, the Oscars boil down to who has the most money and the most power.

Green Book winning "Best Picture" last year––the same year that Boots Riley's incredible Sorry to Bother You wasn't even nominated––should have absolutely crushed whatever faith anyone still held in the Academy's taste. Then again, Sorry to Bother You was a confrontational fable about racism and classism written from a black POV, and Green Book was a white guy's reassurance to other white guys that "I have a black friend" is a valid defense. It's no wonder the Academy loved it.

Thankfully, in 2020, some media outlets have finally had enough.

Oscars Academy Awards

In a statement released by Bitch Media titled "#ByeOscars," the Bitch Media team explained why they are officially boycotting the Oscars. "Once again, the Academy Awards is white as ever, even as the ceremony is touted as the pinnacle of a production or an actor's success...Having a single year (or two) where the nomination pool is more diverse doesn't account for a long history of nominating white, straight people at the expense of people from oppressed communities, so why should we cover a ceremony that shuts out the communities we serve over and over again?"

The Mary Sue followed suit with a post titled "We're Joining Bitch Media in Boycotting the 2020 Oscars." Rallying behind #ByeOscars, The Mary Sue stated, "While we'll discuss any emerging issues surrounding the awards and are ardent in our support of Parasite and Jojo Rabbit, the Academy's failure to nominate more than one person of color (Cynthia Erivo for Harriet) in its sprawling acting categories, or any women for its top directing award, shows how out-of-touch the Oscars remain."

Plenty of other female media professionals agree.

Well, for what it's worth, this white male Internet writer agrees, too. To be clear, Parasite absolutely deserves "Best Picture" this year, by a longshot. I doubt that the Academy's voting body will allow an international film made by a non-white director to win the top award in their "Western Media Supremacy" circlej*rk, but I'd like to be wrong. Bong Joon-ho deserves all the accolades he can get. But even if I am wrong, even if Parasite really is the first ever international film to win "Best Picture," the larger point stands.

In many ways, boycotting the Oscars is an act of solidarity with underrepresented people who the Academy continues to ignore. By refusing to watch, acknowledge, or report on the winners, we can show the Academy that if they insist on upholding a majority-white hegemony, then they risk losing whatever influence we give them in the larger social sphere. Everything in Hollywood runs on money, and a large chunk of that money is based on perceived clout. If we take that clout away by refusing to engage, viewership numbers decrease, and profits do too.

The Academy Awards are no longer relevant, and despite the fact that movies are one of my biggest passions in life, I won't be tuning in.