At a forum in Cedar Rapids Iowa on Sunday, Bernie Sanders fielded a question from a young Mexican-American woman who says that she developed self esteem issues because she did not see enough cartoon protagonists who resembled her racial group. His answer goes deeper than race and touches the media's other bias: class.
"We are a country where millions of people are in despair," Sanders said. "Black, white, brown. They want to see a reflection of their life, of their reality, in media, and in many respects, they are not."
"And then they say, who the hell is talking about me? Who knows about my life? Why should I vote? No one cares -- No one even knows what's going on in my life."
QUESTION: I grew up, I'm Mexican-American. We didn't have cable or anything --this has a point-- I promise. So I watched a lot of PBS and whatnot. Most of the [cartoon] characters, growing up, I know they're animals, most of the characters, I assumed they were white.
Growing up it was kind of hard to believe in myself. And so I was wondering, if there is any way we can make, at least public broadcasting television legally require diversity. And not just one character from each race, but like protagonists of various races and stuff like that. That'd be nice.
BERNIE SANDERS: I want to broaden your point. And that it is, throughout this campaign I've been talking about my fears that economically we are moving towards an oligarchical form of society, where a small number of very wealthy people are reviecing almost all of the new income and the new wealth. Politically, I worry as a result of Citizen's United, billionaires are buying elections, but I also worry about the media.
Paulina raises an issue, it is one issue, but here is what I worry about.
I think you can watch television 24/7, and not get a feeling that what you are seeing is the reality of American life, in many respects.
You're talking about racial issues, in a sense. You're not seeing people of your background on television. Right.
What I'm talking about also, and [Iowa State] Sen. Turner made this point a moment ago, we just came out of the worst economic downturn in the modern history of this country, since the Great Depression.
Millions of people lost their jobs, millions of people lost thier homes, millions of people lost their life savings. Today in America, you have a middle class which si disappearing. You have in some cases, peoples life expectancy going down, massive despair. Is that reflected on televison?
Is the reality, the pain of America, reflected on television?
The struggle people are making.
Half of people 55 years of age or older, have zero savings for retirement.
Got that? You're 57 years old, you got nothing in the bank. How do you think you're feeling? You're scared to death.
See that on television? CNN? NBC? ABC? Soap operas? Not so much.
You're point is right, and I agree with you, but it is even deeper than that.
We are a country where millions of people are in despair. Black, white, brown. They want to see a reflection of their life, of their reality, in media, and in many respects, they are not.
And then they say, who the hell is talking about me?
Who knows about my life? Why should I vote? No one cares -- No one even knows what's going on in my life.
So media becomes an important part of the reality of America, and I think we need some big changes there.