Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, received backlash on Friday when activists slammed the Democratic Party's treatment of minorities during a panel at the annual progressive "Netroots Nation" conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
Marcus Ferrell, who served as Bernie Sanders' African American Outreach Director during the 2016 presidential campaign, criticized the Democratic Party's lack of engagement with black voters.
"So far Democratic campaigns think that October is the time to reach out to black churches and all of a sudden magically every single African American is going to show up to the polls," Ferrell said. "Basics doesn't happen in the black community. We can't even get consultants to do good polls in black areas."
Ferrell went on to castigate Democratic politicians for not going into black communities and learning about the issues that are important to them and including their concerns on the party's platform. He also said that the party is not effective in relating to black voters and helping them understand how issues like health care will affect them.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a congressional candidate in New York's 14th district, was also critical of the Democratic Party for taking Hispanics and Latinos for granted.
"Latinos is not just immigration reform and even then there has been no immigration reform, " Ocasio-Cortez said. "So is it a surprise that we don't see the animus from Latino voters for the Democratic Party?"
Racial justice activist Dante Berry said he loved seeing the agitation that the other panelists were showing towards the Democratic Party and said that he would be adding more agitation, as he blamed the violent responses towards African Americans in St. Louis, Missouri, and Flint, Michigan, on Democratic leadership.
"We really need to see bold action and have Democrats have a backbone in order to fight for black people and for other people of color, right? Because we've seen through history that—like what was said, Democrats have not been on our side … But have impacted us through violent means, right?" Berry said.
Environmental activist Anthony Rogers-Wright said that he was going to add to the agitation from the other panelists because he was "pretty agitated" with the Democratic Party.
"I think African Americans in particular, African American women specifically in particular, have gotten a worse return on investment from the Democratic Party than anyone that got screwed over by Bernie Madoff, period," Rogers-Wright said. " It's been close to 50 years of steadfast electoral loyalty and the return of investment hasn't been good."
He went on to say that Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sanders struggled with many of the same issues, including outreach with minority populations and not listening to their concerns.
"Well," Ellison said as he looked down at a sheet of paper while rolling his eyes, prompting the rest of the panel to start laughing.
"It's easy to talk a lot of crap when you only got one person you have to deal with," Ellison said, causing the panelists to erupt into laughter again. "But you know, the Democratic Party did pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, TriO, Head Start, Older Americans Act, Medicare [and] Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, Consumer Financial Products Bureau, Lilly Ledbetter, Equal Pay Act, DACA, DAPA."
Ellison went on to admit that he would be among the first to admit that the Democratic Party is not as good as he would like it to be and that this was why he ran to be the chairman of the DNC. He eventually accepted the deputy chairman position.
Ellison concluded by scolding the panelists for their cynicism and said that "talking about what sucks" is not going to change the problems with the Democratic Party.