Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders released a four-minute campaign video Thursday featuring civil rights activist Erica Garner.
Erica’s father, Eric Garner, was an unarmed African American man who died in 2014 after a white New York City police officer placed him in a chokehold. Mr. Garner repeated "I can’t breathe" 11 times, but the officers’ force continued unabated. Video of Garner’s death went viral, inspiring Black Lives Matter activists across the country.
“There’s no other person that’s speaking about this,” Erica says in the ad, referencing police brutality and racial injustice. “We need a president that’s going to talk about it.”
Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, had different political views from her granddaughter Erica, publicly endorsing Hillary Clinton for president last month.
“Hillary seems to be the only candidate right now who’s talking about how we can be strategic in trying to solve this problem,” Carr writes. “With all the violence and injustice that’s upon us today, we need a candidate who can move us forward – that’s Hillary.”
Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton, Jordan Davis’s mother Lucia McBath, and Sandra Bland’s mother Geneva Reed-Vail have also publicly supported Mrs. Clinton.
These are individuals, of course, and can't speak for the entire US African American demographic. But their differing political endorsements speak to a greater generational divide among black Democratic voters. While African American millennials are flocking to Sanders like their white, Asian, and Hispanic peers, the baby boomers identify more with Hillary.
“If I asked a Republican candidate about Black Lives Matter, they wouldn’t care,” Justin Sewell, a black college student who attended Sanders’s rally in South Carolina, told the Washington Post. “If I asked Hillary, she’d just say what’s convenient. I believe [Sanders] really cares.”
Young black voters in South Carolina told NPR they looked into Clinton’s record and they don’t like what they saw. The lack of minority advocacy “kind of concerned me,” said one student. They find Sander’s past, including his work as a civil rights activist in the 1960s and 1970s, more inspiring.
And inspiring young voters is what both Sanders and Clinton aim to do.
In Iowa, caucus voters between 17 and 29 years old chose Sanders by the landslide margin of 84 percent to 16 percent.
But those were mostly white millenials.
“In New Hampshire, where Sanders handily defeated Clinton, and Iowa where Clinton won with a razor-thin margin, electorates were more than 90 percent white,” The Christian Science Monitor’s Husna Haq noted on Thursday.
Ms. Garner's appearance in Sanders’s "It’s Not Over" ad comes before the South Carolina primary, where the black Democratic vote – and crucially, the black millennial Democratic vote - will be put to the test.
Of all African American voters eligible for the 2016 election, 35 percent are millennials while 29 percent are baby boomers. The white electorate is divided 27 and 34 percent respectively.
White millennials made an enormous difference to Sanders’s campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, but the black millennial vote in South Carolina could be just as – if not more – important in a state with a 28 percent African American population.
The "It’s Not Over" ad timing isn't just about the primary. Federal prosecutors began presenting evidence on Eric Garner’s death to a grand jury Wednesday.
“I don’t want the world to forget what happened to my dad,” says an emotional Erica Garner in the ad. “I believe Bernie Sanders is a protester. He’s not scared to go up against the criminal justice system. He’s not scared.”