Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has been a constant advocate against discriminatory policies targeting people of color, but his former press secretary Symone Sanders (no relation) says she experienced some of those very things as a staff member on his campaign trail.
Although Symone made it very clear that Senator Sanders was “horrified” when she shared her experiences with him—and also clarified that her fellow staff members were never involved in any of the racism she was subjected to during her time with the campaign—she didn’t hold back from opening up about several incidents that left her frustrated beyond belief.
“There were multiple instances. There were places where I literally I couldn’t get in,” Simone told Lenny Newsletter staff writer Mikki Halpin in a recent interview. “I would go to the door, the staff entrance, and people would say, “This is staff only.” I’d have to explain to them that I was staff, and they would question me. I would have to say, ‘I’m the national press secretary. Did you watch me on the news the other day?’ It was consistently happening. There was one week where it happened the entire week.”
Simone also shared two separate instances in which blatant racism became overwhelming and caused her to break down.
“My breaking point was a time when I had let the event staff know I was having trouble getting in places and asked them if they could just really make an extra effort for this particular day, because it had been a long week. Like, ‘Could you please just let folks know that I’m coming and that I’m black?’ You don’t think you’d have to say those things, but I said, ‘Let them know there’s going to be a black girl that’s going to come to the front and please let her in.’”
The Nebraska native also recounted an incident where she was sitting in her car at a campaign building and a man ran up and began banging on her window while frantically yelling for her to “get the F out of here” before adding that she “didn’t belong here” because the premises were for staff only. “I broke down in the car,” Symone recalled. “I cracked my window down and I said, ‘I’m the national press secretary!’ I was just crying. Eventually someone came down and let me in.”