Sally Boynton Brown, the Idaho’s Democratic Party’s executive director and one of seven candidates to chair the Democratic National Committee, is taking heat for comments she made at a candidates’ forum last week on how the party should talk about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Brown, responding to a question from moderator Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC, said Democrats have failed minorities and people of color and need to “accept there is prejudice” within the party. Speaking as a “white woman” who doesn’t “get it,” she said her job was to was to “shut other white people down when they want to say, oh, no, I’m not prejudiced; I’m a Democrat.”
Right-leaning media outlets seized on the “shut other white people down” part of her comment to attack her and the party.
“Obviously they’re being taken out of context,” Boynton Brown said of the reporting on her comments Tuesday. “What I was answering to was an internal party conversation around being in alignment with our values and words.”
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What I was answering to was an internal party conversation around being in alignment with our values and words.
Sally Boynton Brown
She added: “I think that this is the issue we see with fake news. These media outlets take something completely out of context and sensationalize it, and now people across the country are sending me hate mail and thinking I’m saying something that’s not true.”
Boynton Brown, traveling in New York on Tuesday, said that her comments were aimed at racism as “the oldest power structure that we have in this country.”
“We absolutely need to check our own filter,” she said. “And the DNC needs to be making sure that we’re training people on how to listen to our brothers and sisters of color who are sharing their life experience with us.”
What Boynton Brown said
Transcribed by C-SPAN, which broadcast the forum:
Black lives matter and it makes me sad that we’re even having that conversation and that tells me that white leaders in our party have failed. We have to accept there is prejudice that exists within our own party and we have to be able to have these conversations. We cannot sweep that under the rug. We cannot continue to hide it. We cannot smash voices down when they are trying to scream, “Listen to me, you don’t get it.”
I’m a white woman. I don’t get it. I am pleased and honored to be here today to have the conversation. I am so excited that we’re here. And I am listening. Because that’s my job. My job is to listen to the issues. (Applause)
My job is to listen and be a voice and my job is to shut other white people down when they want to interrupt. (Laughter/applause) My job is to shut other white people down when they want to say, “Oh, no, I’m not prejudiced. I’m a Democrat. I’m accepting.” My job is to make sure that they get that they have privilege and until we shut our mouths and we listen to those people who don’t and we lift our people up so that we all have equity in this country, so that we’re all fighting alongside each other, so that we are all on the same page and we clearly get where we’re going, we’re not going to break through this.
This is not just rhetoric. This is life or death. This moment in our country. The Democratic Party has the opportunity to do something different. We have the opportunity to really confront the fact that we have not been in alignment with our values. We’ve been talking a lot of smack. We need to make sure that our actions and our words and our values all match and around the issue of race we are so far out of alignment, I don’t even know the way back, but I am listening and I am asking and I am talking to people. I am talking to people of color because you have the answers, you can tell me as a leader what I need to do and that’s exactly what I’m going to do, is continue to have those conversations and continue to talk to people and make sure that every single system in our party is designed to give power back to the people. All people, but especially those people who have been disenfranchised in our country since our country started. So please, please, please, please this is a conversation I want to have and I am from Idaho. We are so white. (Laughter) So white. Right? Like I’ve been reaching out and trying to connect to anybody of color that I can find to be honest with me. (Laughter)
I am not a politician. I am a human being trying to do good work and I can’t do it without y’all. So please, please, please, get ahold of me. Sally at wethednc.org. I need schooling and I depend on you and the people around our community to do that so that I can go school the other white people. (Laughter)