There was a powerful and poignant moment during Bernie Sanders’ student town hall meeting on Wednesday in Fairfax, Virginia. Remaz Abdelgader, one of the more than 1,700 students in the George Mason University auditorium, rose to ask a question about minorities in America, including Muslims like her.
She said she was sickened by the rhetoric of leading Republican Party candidates Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, who recently said that he would not want to see a Muslim elected president. “As an American Muslim student who aspires to change this world, the rhetoric going on in the media makes me sick,” she said.
The crowd rose to its feet to support her.
Bernie invited her to come up on the stage.
He hugged her.
Then he answered her question.
“This is what I think. Let me be very personal here if I might. I’m Jewish. My father’s family died in concentration camps. I will do everything that I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism which has existed for far too many years.
“And let me tell you something. What racism is about is many, many things. It is pent-up hatred that is lashing out at people in uncontrollable and stupid ways. But it is something very different than that.
“For many years in this country you have had politicians, and I’m old enough to know this, who played blacks off against whites. They told white workers who were earning pennies an hour, they said ‘Hey, you think you’re in trouble, but you’re better off than the blacks who can’t drink at a water fountain or go to your school ‘” he said. “And they told straight people, ‘Well, you think you’ve got problems but you’re better off than those gay people, right?’ And they pitted men against women. They played one group off against the another. The rich got richer while everybody else was fighting each other. Our job is to build a nation in which we all stand together as one people.”
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