[Content Note: Racism; homophobia; misogyny.]

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has announced that he will be speaking at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University:
Sanders will join religious figures, comedians, athletes and lawmakers at the ceremony, billed as "North America's largest weekly gathering of Christian students."

"Liberty University was kind enough to invite me to address a convocation and I decided to accept," Sanders said in a statement on Wednesday night. "It goes without saying that my views on many issues -- women's rights, gay rights, education and many other issues -- are very different from the opinions of some in the Liberty University community. I think it is important, however, to see if we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues."

In the statement, Sanders said he looked forward to meeting with the students and faculty at Liberty.

"It is very easy for a candidate to speak to people who hold the same views," he stated. "It's harder but important to reach out to others who look at the world differently."
And this is the problem with Bernie Sanders, right here: It's easy for him to casually say that he and the university's community merely have differences of opinion on some key issues, without any acknowledgment of the extreme privilege he has that allows him to be so magnanimous about policy positions that don't personally affect him.

Sanders doesn't have to weigh the cost of speaking at a university that is explicitly anti-feminist, or explicitly anti-gay, or has a Civil War "mourning room" that contains among its decorations a cross made from the hair of dead Confederate soldiers. (No, I'm not joking.)

He doesn't have to worry about sacrificing his dignity and checking his humanity at the door the way his fellow candidate Hillary Clinton would, or our current sitting president Barack Obama would.

There's no personal cost of entry for Bernie Sanders—and, on top of that, he gets to frame himself as doing something brave and tough and not taking the "easy" way out of avoiding people "who look at the world differently."

But it is one thing to be a straight white cis man who has policy disagreements with the Liberty University community, and quite another to be a person from a marginalized population(s) whose very identity is considered less than by the Liberty University community.

Further, I'm not thrilled about the fact that Sanders is lending credibility to Liberty University with his presence. Once an unacredited joke, now the place boasts an acredited law school with the explicit purpose of training students in law with an eye toward filling the judiciary with conservative Christian judges who take a "Biblical view" of the law: "The school, which says its mission is to train 'ministers of justice,' is part of a movement around the nation that means to bring a religious perspective to the law and a moral component to legal practice."

Again: This is not reflective of a mere "difference of opinion." This is about training people in case law in a way that seeks to deny civil rights and equality to people from marginalized populations, and to codify an extremely reductive and exclusionary and privilege-entrenching version of Christianity into law.

Honestly, I don't want any Democratic candidates tacitly legitimizing that shit by appearing at Liberty University. Leave that space to Ted Cruz and his terrible friends.

Sanders says he hopes to "reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country" with people who subscribe to the notion that god gives people what they deserve, who refuse to acknowledge basic principles like privilege, and who will never see access to abortion or job protections as key components of financial stability for millions of people.

So what would it even mean to reach consensus with these people? At whose expense would that consensus come?

Certainly not at brave Bernie Sanders' expense.

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