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San Francisco Teacher's Op-Ed Calling Bernie's Inauguration Outfit 'White Privilege' Sparks Backlash

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

To most of us, the now-iconic photo of Senator Bernie Sanders huddled up at Democratic President Joe Biden's Inauguration in a pair of knitted mittens, looking cold and like he has errands to run, is simply an inadvertently hilarious moment of an elderly man feeling cold at an outdoor event in January.

But it's certainly not just that to all of us. Like a San Francisco teacher, for instance, who saw so much "subtle White privilege" in Bernie's moment that she wrote an entire op-ed in The San Francisco Chronicle about it

And many folks on the internet are not here for it.

The op-ed comes from San Francisco public high school teacher Ingrid Seyer-Ochi—who is White—and instantly went viral for its accusation of "White privilege, male privilege and class privilege" based on the simple clothes Sanders chose to wear.

Seyer-Ochi claimed in her op-ed her students were upset by the message Sanders's attire sent.

She wrote:

"What did they see? They saw a White man in a puffy jacket and huge mittens, distant not only in his social distancing, but in his demeanor and attire."

Seyer-Ochi went on to contrast Sanders's attire with that of the many women at the event, such as Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who were dressed elegantly and colorfully, presumably in celebration of the momentous occasion.

It was a contrast that made Seyer-Ochi angry:

"I puzzled and fumed as an individual as I strove to be my best possible teacher. What did I see? What did I think my students should see? A wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged White man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens."

Seyer-Ochi then concluded her op-ed by attempting to speak for marginalized people everywhere.

"I don't know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie. Unless those same folk had privilege. Which they don't."

It's worth noting that being "poor, working class and female" does not preclude one from having privilege (the privilege of being White, cisgender, heterosexual or Christian, for example).

That aside, Seyer-Ochi seemed unaware of the fact many others at the inauguration, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin among them, were dressed in a similarly utilitarian way to fend off the cold. She also seemed unaware Sanders used his viral moment to raise millions of dollars for charity.

People on the internet definitely noticed.

The response to the op-ed was overwhelmingly negative.



A number of people of color called out Seyer-Ochi for appointing herself their spokesperson.









Sanders' viral moment raised more than $1.8 million for several charitable organizations in his home-state of Vermont, including Meals on Wheels and Feeding Chittenden, Vermont's largest food bank.