In an op-ed published Monday in the San Francisco Chronicle, former college professor Ingrid Seyer-Ochi pointed to a viral image of lifelong communist Sen. Bernie Sanders bundled up and wearing mittens at the recent presidential inauguration as evidence that he manifests “white privilege, male privilege and class privilege.”
Seyer-Ochi, currently a San Francisco Unified School District high school teacher, begins the poorly-written essay — titled “S.F. high school students get a lesson in subtle white privilege” — by describing discussions with her students about the inauguration. “On the day of the inauguration, Bernie Sanders was barely on our radar. The next day, he was everywhere,” she wrote.
Discussing diversity and discrimination in the U.S. (as one does in San Francisco high schools these days), Seyer-Ochi later circled back to Sanders and tried to convey to her students all of the various privileges he represented: “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.”
In her mind, Seyer-Ochi believed the photo of Sanders in mittens demonstrated his “privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege, in ways that my students could see and feel… Yet, when they saw Sen. Bernie Sanders manifesting privilege, when seemingly no one else did, I struggled to explain that disparity.”
“The blindness I see, of so many (Bernie included), to the privileges Bernie represents,” she writes. “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.”
Many on Twitter rightfully were puzzled by the Chronicle op-ed. “Girl he was sitting in a chair,” wrote journalist John Paul Brammer.
“I was just sitting there trying to keep warm, trying to pay attention to what was going on,” Sanders had told host Seth Meyers on Late Night about becoming a viral meme.