San Francisco Teacher's Op-Ed Calling Bernie's Inauguration Outfit 'White Privilege' Sparks Backlash
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.
"Sen. Sanders is no white supremacist insurrectionist. But he manifests privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege, in ways that my students could see and feel." https://t.co/uyAGMpAuR9
— SFChronicle Opinion (@sfc_opinions) February 1, 2021
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.
"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.
What fresh hell is this take, I don't even understand. The dude wore mittens and a big coat because it was cold and then he turned around and raised a ton of money for charity https://t.co/q3oWVLxU6e
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) February 1, 2021
Wait so Bernie has now been attacked for being too fancy, and not fancy enough, all while wearing the exact same nondescript winter coat?? 🤦🏻♀️😩
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) February 1, 2021
Also white female privilege apparently. pic.twitter.com/S4p7Mhkp7R
— Lara Lawlor (@lawlorlara) February 1, 2021
A number of people of color called out Seyer-Ochi for appointing herself their spokesperson.
😐 100% a white woman writing this, and by her own admission, she should not be an educator: “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?"
— Tamanisha J John (@TamanishaJohn) February 1, 2021
Any member of congress manifests privilege They made it. They have good salaries& best benefits in the country. They can buy houses in their states, apartments in DC and that's JUST people like Bernie, who live OFF their salary and don't use their position to enrich themselves.
— #CharlesDeservesToLive (@LolaMotz) February 1, 2021
1. delete this tweet
2. delete your account
3. delete your newspaper
— Bes D. Socialist (@besf0rt) February 1, 2021
Hats off to anyone with the sheer balls to accuse Bernie Sanders specifically of “manifesting class privilege" in a government packed with oligarchs and special interest goons
— Vaush (@VaushV) February 1, 2021
When he turned around and used that moment to raise millions for charity that was also traumatizing for my students too.
— jordan (@JordanUhl) February 1, 2021
Accusing Bernie Sanders white supremacy because some white Karen is still salty about the mitten meme isn't a good use of your column inches. pic.twitter.com/6kKgOCDJsu
— 🌹 Clark, a proud citizen of GoFundMe nation (@Clarknt67) February 1, 2021
Something particularly grating about white women taking language we developed to understand oppression to dress up their personal disdain for certain white men. I'm tired of white people getting platforms to furthers confuse what privilege really means https://t.co/aD4WoO2t93
— Wagatwe Wanjuki 🇰🇪 🇧🇸 (@wagatwe) February 1, 2021
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.