A leading progressive group has declared Democratic presidential candidates will have to prove their commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement to receive its endorsement.
After there was conflict between some Democratic White House hopefuls and activists concerned about police violence against black Americans at the Netroots Nation Conference, Democracy for America announced it would be adjusting its endorsement process.
"[R]eal solidarity means not just taking action in response to racial injustice and police brutality, but doing everything we can to connect the fight against structural racism and our country's culture of white supremacy to every aspect of the work we do," DFA executive director Charles Chamberlain wrote in a blog post.
Throughout the 2016 election cycle, the organization plans to ask local, congressional, and presidential candidates how they plan to support the Black Lives Matter movement and "confront structural racism and our culture of white supremacy." The new criteria will join a litany of progressive causes that Democratic candidates are quizzed on, including LGBT rights, immigration reform, Social Security expansion and debt-free college.
"We want the candidates we endorse to not only say that #BlackLivesMatter, we want these candidates to know that progressives — including those in organizations with largely white memberships and staff like DFA — expect them to stand up to, name, and address systemic racism as fundamental and foundational to the movement to end income inequality," Chamberlain wrote.
The decision to urge Democratic candidates to lend public support to the Black Lives Matter movement comes after former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a 2016 presidential candidate, was booed by progressive activists for saying "all lives matter" on stage at Netroots Nation.
Shortly after O'Malley apologized for what some have described as an "offensive" statement, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton used the Black Lives Matter hashtag during a Facebook Q&A.
"Both O'Malley and [Bernie] Sanders missed a clear opportunity to lead a united progressive movement dedicated to actively confronting power wherever it exists – from the Wall Street banks that are rigging our economy to a criminal justice system that is brutalizing Black and Brown people," Chamberlain wrote.
Chamberlain reportedly blasted Clinton in an email statement last Friday for trying to appease both Wall Street and the uber-liberal wing of the Democratic party.
According to Horace Cooper, co-chair of the black conservative leadership network Project 21, DFA should be wary of fostering a movement that "is aggressively becoming a black supremacy effort."
"No national party — and especially not a party with the legacy of being pro-slavery and pro-segregation that Democrats have — should give any credence to any group that believes we should select policies based on favored or unfavored racial groups in America," Cooper told the Washington Examiner.
In addition to adjusting its endorsement criteria, DFA plans to "change the kind of candidates that are running for office." While citing a recent report that 95 percent of the 42,000 elected officials in the U.S. are white men, Chamberlain complained that "progressive women of color are not being tapped for the critical problems our country needs to solve."
"We can no longer afford to exclude some of our best and brightest leaders; we need leaders that reflect the full array of talent that America has to offer," he wrote.
Cooper countered that political organizations should support candidates with the right qualifications, regardless of race or sex.
"Saying that you are only going to support a candidate because of their race isn't any better than saying you are going to oppose a candidate because of their race," he said, adding that in 2015 "we need to be moving as rapidly as possible to the colorblind society that Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for."