Hawo Mohamed: The beauty of socialism, working for all the people

What Bernie did. A short series. Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign, but his political influence continues to reverberate. While he has endorsed Joe Biden, Sanders clearly aims to extract policy concessions based on growing support for his signature Medicare for All demand, however unlikely this may be given Biden’s track record. More significantly, Sanders has inspired a generation of socialist organizers who are willing to push beyond the limits of the political revolution he popularized. This week, No Borders News presents voices inspired by Sanders’ campaigns — and the social and class struggles that emerged before, during, and after — as well as debates about where socialists go from here.

Hawo Mohamed is membership committee co-chair of the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America in Portland where she works as a restorative justice coordinator.

As a young, Black immigrant who was raised in a Muslim household, my politics have perpetually been tied my multiple identities. I have always tried to support the candidates with the most progressive values, and those that would fight for the liberation of oppressed communities. 

In 2012, I was finally old enough to register to vote, and I was ecstatic to participate in local, state-wide, and federal elections. Over the years however, that initial excitement ultimately turned into discomfort, hesitancy, and cognitive dissonance. I learned very quickly that with every election, I’d essentially be forced to vote for one part of my identity and ignore the others. Do I vote for the candidate who wants to tackle the climate crisis but also opposes universal healthcare, or do I support the candidate who will make college more affordable, but doesn’t support open borders? 

With Bernie Sanders, it was the first time I felt like I didn’t have to choose. His socialist values aligned with mine, and for once, I didn’t have to alienate a part of my identity in voting for a candidate. Maybe this is why so many voters like me felt a unified sense of support for Bernie. 

Bernie’s unwavering values over the course of his political career has given me a sense of comfort that he means what he says and really believes it. His authenticity cannot be refuted, he has been fighting to transform power for decades. He never had to conjure a symphony of consultants and strategists to think through what would appeal to voters, he gave us his unvarnished opinions and beliefs time and time again. I truly felt heard and seen in this campaign in a way I’ve never experienced before. 

There was another critical first for me this election, that is, seeing Ilhan Omar, a fellow Somali woman run and win a seat in Congress, and later fully endorse and campaign for Bernie. It was equally important to see Sen. Nina Turner and campaign National Press Secretary Briahna Gray stand by his side. As much as I supported Bernie’s politics, voting for another old white man to lead this country wasn’t going to be easy for me. In hindsight, I believe I needed their full support of him to be fully confident in my vote. All four people helped ignite a political revolution in this country, one in which young people are refusing to accept the insufferable and oppressive conditions of capitalism and are exercising their ability to restore power back to the hands of working-class people. 

Now more than ever, we have seen firsthand the real failure of our healthcare system. We have seen profits being put before people. This coronavirus is disproportionately affecting the Black community. The homeless population is as vulnerable as ever. Our healthcare workers are overworked and risking their lives, and prisons are releasing inmates without proper housing arranged, potentially leaving thousands of people homeless. Words cannot express the anger, shock, and distrust so many of us are feeling. There is a new, shared understanding that these failures are symptoms of the crisis that is capitalism. People are outraged about U.S healthcare right now, and this gives us the opportunity for conversations surrounding universal healthcare or Medicare for All. Likewise, people are realizing how workers are being exploited during this crisis and have begun to talk about workers’ rights and the need to unionize. I believe the movement needs to utilize the anger so many of us are feeling and find productive ways to harness this energy into work and real change. We are not asking for reforms, we are working for a revolution.

The socialist ideas that appeal the most to our community are the same ideas that would appeal the most to everyone else, that is, the beauty and essence of socialism: working for all people and not just the few. Of course, there are conversations to be had surrounding specific issues like immigration, racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-blackness. Socialism must be anti-racist, pro-immigration, pro-religious diversity, and it must be inclusive. We must commit to making these spaces accessible to people of color. We must be aware of our space. We must uplift the communities and individuals that are already doing this work. We must use our privilege as much as we can and work for the liberation of these communities. We must realize that the “work” is multifaceted, and anti-racist work is just as important as anti-capitalist efforts.

So many of us are navigating through various forms of oppression and trauma. We must be aware of peoples’ capacity to work and understand that not many are afforded the same opportunity to think outside of survival mode. But since Bernie’s campaign, I have been even more inspired to continue this fight with full force, and with full confidence that one day we will win. All of us.

[Read next in “What Bernie did” series, Jeremy Gong: After Bernie — Sad but fired up.]

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