Bernie’s mittens: a sign of white privilege

February 2, 2021 • 9:00 am

The racialization of everything continues apace, helped along by an op-ed whose publication has no obvious justification. But this was inevitable. If yogurt, pilates, and pumpkin lattes can be seen as signs of white privilege, why not mittens?

Yes, Bernie in mittens is supposed to symbolize white privilege, at least according to Ingrid Seyer-Ochi writing in the San Francisco Chronicle (click on screenshot below). What makes this pathetic attempt at virtue signaling even scarier is that Seyer-Ochi is a teacher, described by the Chronicle as “a former UC Berkeley and Mills College professor, ex-Oakland Unified School District principal and current San Francisco Unified School District high school teacher.”

Indeed, she describes the “lessons she gives her students” in the piece below.

A few excerpts will suffice.

Three weeks ago I processed the Capitol insurrection with my high school students. Rallying our inquiry skills, we analyzed the images of that historic day, images of white men storming through the Capitol, fearless and with no forces to stop them. “This,” I said, “is white supremacy, this is white privilege. It can be hard to pinpoint, but when we see, it, we know it.”

Well, I won’t fault her for the white supremacy stuff, but she really shouldn’t be inculcating the notion of “white privilege” into high-school students. That’s not education, but the instillation of guilt on top of propaganda.

But it gets worse when she applies “white privilege” to Bernie Sanders, who we know came to the inauguration wearing a winter coat (not a “puffy” down jacket, as Seyer-Ochi implies) and, of course, the famous mittens. This disdain for the more formal attire of others, of course, is seen as another instantiation of white privilege, and that’s the lesson conveyed by Seyer-Ochi to her students:

Fast-forward two weeks as we analyzed images from the inauguration, asking again, “What do we see?” We saw diversity, creativity and humanity, and a nation embracing all of this and more. On the day of the inauguration, Bernie Sanders was barely on our radar. The next day, he was everywhere.

“What do we see?” I asked again. We’ve been studying diversity and discrimination in the United States; my students were ready. 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.

We took in the meaning of the day, the vulnerability of democracy, the power of ritual, traditions and the peaceful transition of power.

We talked about gender and the possible meanings of the attire chosen by Vice President Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden, the Biden grandchildren, Michelle Obama, Amanda Gorman and others. We referenced the female warriors inspiring these women, the colors of their educational degrees and their monochromatic ensembles of pure power.

And there, across all of our news and social media feeds, was Bernie: Bernie memes, Bernie sweatshirts, endless love for Bernie. 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.

And it’s not just white privilege that Bernie was radiating. There were other types too (see below). He’s a veritable gemisch of every type of privilege in America.

Here we have a teacher propagandizing her students with her own interpretation of sociology, so upsetting that she puzzled and fumed. But no, she was not trying to be the best possible teacher—unless she thinks that inculcating her students with wokeness is the right thing to do.

I mean in no way to overstate the parallels. 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.

“When you see privilege, you know it,” I’d told them weeks before. Yet, when they saw Sen. Bernie Sanders manifesting privilege, when seemingly no one else did, I struggled to explain that disparity. I am beyond puzzled as to why so many are loving the images of Bernie and his gloves. Sweet, yes, the gloves, knit by an educator. So “Bernie.”

Not so sweet? The blindness I see, of so many (Bernie included), to the privileges Bernie represents. 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.

This woman is a blithering idiot. First, she doesn’t realize that Bernie is an eccentric, and dresses the way he’d dress in Vermont. He wasn’t exerting some kind of “privilege”.  Was his failure to wear fancy clothes some kind of proclamation about his freedom from “white convention”, then?  If you dress up, you’re showing white privilege, and if you flout that, you are as well.

What Bernie is being faulted for here is not what he wore, but the color of his skin. For Bernie is a progressive, located on a part of the political spectrum beloved by the Woke, and so should be celebrated by a teacher of this stripe (and remember, I voted for Bernie in the primary). But he’s also white, and being of Jewish ancestry apparently is no mitigation.

But does Bernie really have white privilege and class privilege and male privilege? In fact he had a hardscrabble upbringing, as described by Wikipedia, and he’s fought for racial justice his whole adult life.  One thing I learned is that the Bern went to the University of Chicago!

Sanders later described his time in Chicago as “the major period of intellectual ferment in my life.” While there, he joined the Young People’s Socialist League (the youth affiliate of the Socialist Party of America) and was active in the civil rights movement as a student for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Under his chairmanship, the university chapter of CORE merged with the university chapter of the SNCC. In January 1962, he went to a rally at the University of Chicago administration building to protest university president George Wells Beadle’s segregated campus housing policy. At the protest, Sanders said, “We feel it is an intolerable situation when Negro and white students of the university cannot live together in university-owned apartments”. He and 32 other students then entered the building and camped outside the president’s office. After weeks of sit-ins, Beadle and the university formed a commission to investigate discrimination. After further protests, the University of Chicago ended racial segregation in private university housing in the summer of 1963.

Joan Mahoney, a member of the University of Chicago CORE chapter at the time and a fellow participant in the sit-ins, described Sanders in a 2016 interview as “a swell guy, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, but he wasn’t terribly charismatic. One of his strengths, though, was his ability to work with a wide group of people, even those he didn’t agree with.” He once spent a day putting up fliers protesting police brutality, only to notice later that Chicago police had shadowed him and taken them all down. He attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave the “I Have a Dream” speech. That summer, Sanders was fined $25 (equivalent to $209 in 2019) for resisting arrest during a demonstration in Englewood against segregation in Chicago’s public schools.

Nooo, but that’s not enough for Ms. Seyer-Ochi, because Bernie is white and wore mittens.

What I find most reprehensible about this woman is that she’s a high school teacher, and the “education” she gives her students apparently involves pouring woke garbage into their brains, filling them with guilt and instilling them with ideas of racial identity and division. She shouldn’t be a teacher, and were I a parent of one of her students, I’d try to find another school or teacher.

As far as I can see, Seyer-Ochi taught an education course at UC Berkeley, presumably as an adjunct, and some of the students complained of the same ideological agenda at Rate My Professors (to be fair, she has some good ratings, too). There’s no way this isn’t the same woman:

The Daily Fail has a photo of this teacher, and it shows another example of white privilege: tattoos.  Doesn’t she know that it’s hard to see tattoos on black skin?

Perhaps the worst part of all this is that the San Francisco School District probably wants teachers like this. She’d be perfect to teach the new ethnic-studies course.

Oh, and until I saw the tweet below I had forgotten that Bernie put the mittens meme on all sorts of merchandise on his site, with the money being used for charity. According to the AP, Bernie’s White Privilege Mittens raised a ton of dosh!:

About those wooly mittens that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders wore to the presidential inauguration, sparking endless quirky memes across social media? They’ve helped to raise $1.8 million in the last five days for charitable organizations in Sanders’ home state of Vermont, the independent senator announced Wednesday.

The sum comes from the sale of merchandise with the Jan. 20 image of him sitting with his arms and legs crossed, clad in his brown parka and recycled wool mittens.

Sanders put the first of the so-called “Chairman Sanders” merchandise, including T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers, on his campaign website Thursday night and the first run sold out in less than 30 minutes, he said. More merchandise was added over the weekend and sold out by Monday morning, he said.

. . .The groups that will benefit from the proceeds of the “Chairman Sanders” items include Area Agencies on Aging to fund Meals on Wheels throughout Vermont, Vermont community action agencies, Feeding Chittenden, Chill Foundation, senior centers in Vermont and Bi-State Primary Care for dental care improvements in the state, Sanders’ office said.

Sanders’ attire has also sparked other charitable endeavors. A crocheted doll of Sanders in his garb was auctioned off online and Burton Snowboards donated 50 jackets to the Burlington Department for Children and Families in Sanders’ name, his office said.

58 thoughts on “Bernie’s mittens: a sign of white privilege

  1. So we are supposed to listen to a woman who failed at being a university professor and failed at being a high school principal and is now a high school teacher?

  2. > Here we have a student propagandizing her students…

    Typo. I think you meant to write, “Here we have a teacher propagandizing her students…”

  3. I would feel sorry for the students in this “teacher’s” class because they are learning nothing. A few more teachers like this along the way and after graduation one wonders – why are these kids so stupid with no common sense and screwy ideas. We do not pay teachers enough or insist they know what they are doing. Good luck kiddies.

  4. Hahaha. This is what happens when you make up categories that have no basis in reality: Anyone or anything can be made to fit. It is a meaningless concept, but not useless politically. Seyer-Ochi is a left-deviationist. I am waiting for the new Goya meme: Saturn Tweeting His Children.

  5. This form of neoracist mind warping isn’t just in high schools, it’s running rampant in elementary classrooms as well. Sadly I get to experience this kind of ideologically-based re-education on a daily basis. I desperately need a career change. Until then I must be the pattern of all patience and say nothing, lest I find myself in the unemployment line.

  6. “Rallying our inquiry skills” . What she means is to inquire only into the color of someones’ skin and not the content of their character. This meets the very definition of bigotry.

  7. I am beyond puzzled as to why so many are loving the images of Bernie and his gloves.

    This is really not that hard. His mittens were funny-looking or at least funny in the context of a serious political ceremony. People like funny. So they took his pic and put him in other ‘funny in the context’ situations.

    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.

    The Inauguration was basically closed to spectators, so you can be pretty sure every person you see on camera, no matter what race or age or sex is either privileged or hired to support the event. Don’t be fooled by his whiteness into thinking he’s somehow above everyone else – Bernie Sanders’ net worth is something around $2mil. Kamala Harris’ is something like $6mil.
    Her comment is also nonsensical from the perspective that in a regular inauguration year, when Inauguration isn’t closed to bystanders, you would see lots of working class folk showing up to it dressed like Bernie.

    1. Her failure to understand is a failure of her imagination. If she was a professor, she has surely stepped down to a high school level?

      I do not like resorting to insult but what a prat!

  8. Here’s the scary thought: with sanctimonious cretins like this hijacking the Left, apparently successfully, and dangerous lunatics like Marjorie Taylor Greene making at least a good effort at continuing the Trumpian takeover of the conservative movement, we are going to wind up in a weird kind of Manichaean political hell in this country where the conflict is now between *two different versions* of the forces of Darkness. For the rest of is, the ship is going down and there don’t seem to be any working lifeboats.

      1. Few of the moderate Republicans are in Congress. Manchin is what I would have thought was a moderate Republican years ago. Now he’s seen as just a leftist by the right.

    1. That is a pretty good review of reality in America. Democracy has always been a kind of an illusion so when it is gone I’m not sure many will notice.

  9. I can’t read the article due to its paywall but I bet the author fails to note that Sanders is an old guy on the tail end of his long career (30 years in Congress!) and has no reason to care too much about his appearance or fashion sense. Plus, it’s part of his appeal and a demonstration of his independence. I think it is more a matter you-can’t make-me-give-a-shit privilege than anything else.

    1. Sanders was clearly showing white privilege in his mittens and parka, I wonder what would have been said if he had been dressed in a tailored suit and hand made shoes?

      I saw Ingrid Seyer-Ochi displaying youth privilege, female privilege and teacher privilege. Don’t ask me how I knew it was just obvious. /s

      1. It might also be due to me having recently accessed an article in the same publication. I don’t remember doing so but may have. I suspect I could work around this in some way but I’ve already moved on. It sounds like a silly article and I’m pretty sure I would agree with our host’s take on it.

  10. “What Bernie is being faulted for here…” etc.

    Isn’t she implying that those mittens wouldn’t have been accepted from a “black” person? I know, no direct evidence for that, but she does not seem to attack Bernie or (worse) his mittens. She merely speculates that Bernie’s somewhat eccentric behavior would lead to more negative reactions coming from a dark-skinned person.
    I am just playing Devil’s advocate. I don’t dispute that she totally goes off the rails trying to make her point.

    1. I think it’s also example of how fanatics resemble puritans, in that both seem to get inordinately upset at anyone having fun. Sticking Bernie pics in various backgrounds for giggles means you’re not spending that time Fighting For The Great Cause, don’cha know. Please, oh please, won’t somebody think of the Privilege [not being fought]!

      1. Yes, they resemble Puritans or the Red Brigades, although the latter two had less changing purity tests (AFAIK). SJW’s walk on quicksand, any moment you can be found at fault, for the most innocent or trivial remark, and you will become a target, regardless of pleading guilt and showing remorse. As observed above: you can never win, or at least not past your proverbial 15 minutes.

  11. So I guess the GOP men, who tend to dress very formally in suit and ties, are NOT exhibiting white privilege?

    With Wokism, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  12. Wow! She is so off the mark. The real controversy is that by wearing trousers, Bernie was showing blatant cis privilege and transphobia!

  13. Attention seeking by the author, tout court.

    Plus, it’s wrong on it’s merits. Bernie didn’t look like some paragon of privilege at the inauguration; he looked like a retired lunch-bucket Joe wearing a Hanukkah gift from his grandkids.

  14. What characterizes Seyer-Ochi’s attitude is a deep-seated rage at a system that she believes is oppressing her and her fellow minorities. A similar type of rage characterizes a segment of the white population, the most extreme of whom stormed the Capitol on January 6th. To the degree that such beliefs can be demonstrated as objectively false will have little impact on them. When a person’s level of irrationality reaches a certain point, it is very difficult to turn them around. With the advent of the internet it is even more difficult because like-minded people now have readily available support systems for their delusions.

    The rational people somewhere in the middle are by definition less angry and, therefore, less likely to take action to counter the extremes. But, yet they must to prevent the disintegration of American society and the demise of democracy. The very difficult part is to implement a policy to accomplish this. The next four years of the Biden administration will be crucial as to whether the nation can survive. It has to pass legislation that all people, even those on the extreme, perceive as helping them. Republican opposition to Biden’s agenda makes the future even more uncertain. If Biden fails, the prospects of an irrevocable schism in the body politic seems almost certain.

    1. I expect that Biden will fail, and I am unhappy about saying that. It seems inevitable to me that he will widen the social schisms in the USA, losing support from almost everyone… for there are too many groups with different agendas to be aligned into a common purpose.

  15. The blithering idiot is a stereotypical product of our Schools of Education, so it is not unexpected that she actually lectured in one, before descending to actual teaching.

    Her column reveals that wokery is firmly based on the conventional, bourgeois discourse of advertising. The latter, it will be recalled, has long emphasized the clothing worn by anyone (especially women) above anything else. Ms. Blithering follows this exactly: “We talked about gender and the possible meanings of the attire chosen by Vice President Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden, the Biden grandchildren, Michelle Obama, Amanda Gorman and others. We referenced the female warriors inspiring these women, the colors of their educational degrees and their monochromatic ensembles of pure power.” Notice the conflation of “educational degrees” with “ensembles”. Uh huh. Naturally, all she could focus on in regard to Bernie Sanders was his jacket and his mittens.

    The fact that this is a mere variant of bimbo-talk explains its prevalence, particularly amongst white bimbos like Ms. Blithering. Let us hope that students focus on the “ensemble” that she (or Robin DiAngelo) wear, rather than any string of words either of them pretend to string together.

    1. Well at least we can all agree that Bernie is an honorary woman, now that he’s been judged for his clothing instead of his contributions! What next – he’ll get interrupted and talked over??

  16. I think you can say that Bernie benefits from white male privilege, since his sex and the color of his skin haven’t been any sort of hindrance over the course of his life and career. But singling him out as an exemplar of white male privilege the way this teacher has done is absurd, and the fact that she singled out a Jewish man makes me a little twitchy.

    1. Honestly I think she singled him out just because the meme is popular. She’s upset that the Inauguration resulted in people trading around Bernie pics when they should be (in her opinion) talking about racism etc. But IMO this has little to do with Bernie himself – if it had been Mitch in a funny hat or Hilary wearing a bow tie, she would’ve reacted the same. To some folks, Only My Important Issues Are To Be Discussed – anything else is a distraction to be Frowned Upon.

    2. I think you can say that Bernie did NOT benefit from “higher class privilege”, since he was held back by his working-class origins. Does EVERY bit of privilege have to devolve on sex and race. And, of course, has every woman been held back because she doesn’t have “male privilege”?

  17. … a photo of this teacher … shows another example of white privilege: tattoos. Doesn’t she know that it’s hard to see tattoos on black skin?

    II dunno, boss. I’ve seen some tatts showing through loud and proud on NBA players and rappers (and other black folk, too, but those two tend to have more skin on display). Visibility depends on the wide variety of underlying skin tone.

  18. I guess the take home message is if you are an older white male (person?) you shouldn’t try to accomplish or do anything because if you do it is only because of white privilege.

  19. In regard to “privilege”, BTW, a news release (below) reveals a campaign to elevate Diversity to a key value in the awarding of research grants.

    “Representatives from a network of women deans, chairs and distinguished faculty in biomedical engineering are calling upon the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies to address disparities in allocating support to Black researchers. The group made the call to action in the Jan. 26, 2021, issue of the journal Cell.

    …The authors of the paper make several recommendations on how research funding disparities can be eliminated. Among the steps funding agencies might take are:
    Explicitly state that racism persists in the United States research enterprise and that it must be expelled;
    Develop federal funding institute policies to immediately achieve racial funding equity;
    Incorporate diversity into research proposal scoring criteria, prioritize research teams that exemplify diversity, and diversify proposal review panels;

    …In closing, the authors look also to the private sector, such as foundations, professional societies, philanthropists as well as to industrial leaders whose companies depend on scientific innovation, to help offset racial disparities in research funding. The biotech company Genentech is held up as an example of leadership in reducing racial disparities in science, with its creation of a research funding awards program for Black scientists.”

  20. ”But no, she was not trying to be the best possible teacher—unless she thinks that inculcating her students with wokeness is the right thing to do.”

    I bet you my life savings this is *exactly* the right thing to do in her radicalized mind. Of course, she would frame it differently. 🙂

    1. Good point. Didier Drogba is a shining example of white privilege.
      OJ Simpson is not, since those gloves didn’t fit.

  21. I love this article — not the opinion it expresses, but its existence. It shows for all to see that the Woke are just burgeois Democrats who were always gunning for Sanders. He was concerned with social democratic issues, and the woke care about what’s really important to the so-called US “Left” — the number of BIPOC among Raytheon board members.

    The Bernie meme looks like displacement behaviour to me. The Democrats made it their priority to prevent Sanders, even with the calculated risk of losing against Trump and now they have been extraordinary petty and hostile towards the (actual) left, and Sanders. That gives this meme a rather sour taste.

  22. The teacher who made the mittens has received many requests from people wanting to buy a pair. She has now partnered with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company to make more to fill the demand and some of the proceeds will go to Make-A-Wish Vermont.

  23. Bernie should have celebrated diversity by dressing in a suit exactly like that worn by all the other men there.

  24. Some people live in a perpetually offended state and are perpetually laying in wait of the next imagined target to attack.

  25. Reminds me of the tabloid storm which greeted the Labour leader of the opposition in 1979 or early 80s when he attended Remembrance Sunday and laid a wreath at the Cenotaph wearing a donkey jacket. He was Michael Foot. He was a left wing intellectual who came of a famous and long standing intellectual family. Foot was not making a point; he had just not given any thought to dress that day.

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