“Don’t Hate Me Because I’m ‘Bernie-Ful’”: A Plea From Your Brown “Bernie-Sister”

This has been a difficult piece to write. But alas, I take some courage and solace from Maya Angelou: “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.”

I have written a bit on stigma here…. the mental health stigma present in every layer of our identifiers…. And other types of stigmas we encounter in our communities, especially as women of color. Mental health stigma is a very difficult topic to discuss, especially at the moment in which you are feeling/experiencing the stigma, and at a time/place where it is ‘unpopular’ to engage. Although mental health awareness is slowly becoming more mainstream, we need to be consistent and continue the conversation.

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered I was dealing with something else, and perhaps for the past four years. Another “Stigma,” powerful and familiar:

“Feeling the Bern.”
For the purpose of this piece, I will call it: The “Berner Stigma.”


I hope we have done our research, making a very informed decision in this most crucial election, which can still go any direction. But with a strong desire to return to “Pre-Trump times,” “restore normalcy,” we may forget how personal this election truly is, for many people on all sides, some more than others, given the stakes, and given the enormous challenges emerging at this moment. Challenges that will impact the most disenfranchised, the most vulnerable among us, who are already neglected or “invisible” in status quo policies, programs, and institutions.

As I celebrate my ‘identity intersections,’ all of which could be classified as “disadvantages” in America, I’ve added one more to that formula…

“Feeling the Bern” came instantly to me, as I learned what this guy, Senator Bernie Sanders was really saying… He spoke a language that made sense to me. But like learning any language, it didn’t come right away. I had to give it a chance. Initially, I didn’t like how he kept putting his index finger up in the air, when he spoke. 😊 (Now I love it!) And I wasn’t sure about how he would lead on foreign policy issues.

My studies, throughout my higher education, have revolved around Public and International Affairs, and the International Relations branch of Political Science … I never cared for the nuances of American politics. To be transparent, I got a ‘C’ in my ‘American Congress’ college course, at the University of Minnesota. 😊 Bernie helped me understand politics beyond the literature, and see that a probable reason for the difficult time I had understanding or even caring about domestic politics was because some aspects of the current structure wasn’t something I could inherently believe in… It was because I couldn’t see my position or presence inside this structure.

Bernie helped me see that I too can have a place in this structure.


After the 2016 election, there was something on my shoulder, dragging me down, bigger than dealing with Trump. I didn’t feel sorry for supporting Bernie all the way through. And I think many of us have been sick since that election and desperately yearning to get better. But at the same time, I also felt that being a Bernie supporter was problematic for some reason, in my social and professional networks, considering Secretary Clinton’s loss, and the blame placed on Bernie, his supporters, and third-party voters. I voted for Dr. Jill Stein, because the Iraq War vote and the inability to recognize Palestinian rights, were major deal-breaking issues for me. It is important that people understand those remain huge issues for a large demographic (people who care about the Muslim World, many Muslim Americans, Iraq War Veterans, etc.). And I felt closer to Dr. Stein’s platform. She won my heart after Bernie conceded to Hillary, so I followed my heart, as simple as that. I was proud to vote for my first female President. It made me think that my interests may align more with the Greens. I remain open to this ideological evolution.

So not only did I actively fight for Sanders, I voted for Jill Stein. YIKES!…. Recently, a few people in my networks have scolded me for that, suggesting that I shouldn’t tell anyone. Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit unsettling? To hide who I proudly voted for as an American citizen? Virginia went to Hillary anyway….

This, just like any other “Stigma,” has been challenging to deal with. Strangely, I didn’t feel it as much before as I do now, even when Bernie became more popular and his “radical” positions became more mainstream.

In 2016, I estimated about 17 friends that deleted me on Facebook because of my political posts, posts that were promoting Bernie and against Clinton as well. I used to be a Hillary supporter, I preferred her over Obama in 2008. Until I learned more about her in this election and could no longer see myself in her. Some of the friends that “unfriended me” were childhood friends, some were friends from my current School/University that I always had pleasant interactions with in person. I added some of them back, I even wrote to them, tried to reconnect and engage, and some accepted, but most people were not so merciful.

Reflecting on this made me think that the“Berner Stigma” could be real.

It saddens me that we are becoming a less “forgiving” society, especially when it comes to differences in politics.

You also notice, now during the 2020 Primary, and back in 2016, a decrease in engagement with your online posts. People who normally follow you and engage with your posts, no longer follow you and engage. It’s not just the political posts. It’s the posts you share that have nothing to do with politics. Those are the posts that reveal the “unfollows” and/or the feelings of gradual “alienation” online…

This is the real disconnect some of us may be facing right now, in a localized way, on our social networks online, or even in our off-line surroundings. The message of Bernie continues to resonate with so many, across the country, but for some reason, this yearning and enthusiasm for the “Political Revolution,” within some of our circles, appears at least at surface value, to be “unpopular.”

And it was worse, for those of us who couldn’t vote for the Establishment in 2016: us Third-party voters. It may also be easier for people who hang around Progressives more than those that choose not to be “closeted Progressives” among moderate groups/networks, or among groups/networks that are not politically engaged.

Bernie ran again because those progressive policies he ran on in 2016 had become increasingly popular. And I am grateful he did.

Again. For another election, I would have someone who values me. And I learned more, this second time around, about how he validates my presence in the American political process, in his policies and his plans to implement them.

I emerged despite this imprisonment of the “Berner Stigma,” in the past few months, as I still believed in the “Political Revolution” deep inside, of the prospects of Bernie winning the nomination, and it helped that more and more people were identifying as Bernie supporters, as progressives. Many more people have started to “Feel the Bern,” this second time around, and some more openly.

And if Bernie isn’t afraid to fight for me, to have my back, then why should I be afraid to fight for him?


I have proudly embraced and flaunted my identities and intersections. And I have also come to proudly believe in “the real structural systemic long-term change,” proposed by a gentleman named Bernie Sanders, that just happens to be called a “Political Revolution.” But it is precisely those intersections that naturally led me to believe in Bernie’s Revolution.

For instance, as someone who struggles with mental health conditions, healthcare has become an even more important issue for me, more in recent years. I wrote about my constant and painstaking struggle in searching for mental healthcare, as a Muslim and a woman of color, in a recent post.

I am also a graduate student who’s been in school for a long time, and like others, may have a mountain of student debt that will probably take up most of my income for the next few decades perhaps, unless I marry a rich Pakistani or Indian Doctor as predicated through my ancestral origins. (OR defy destiny, and BECOME a (PhD) doctor, myself). 😉 Latter preferred.

But you know…what really hurts is knowing that despite this mountain, I am and could still be in a better position than so many other Americans. I know my privilege. I could possibly take care of most of my student debt in 20-25 years if I am able to land an okay job after my doctorate, and during that time, I might still be able to send gifts to all my nieces and nephews for their birthdays, and perhaps treat my parents to delicious dinners out in Georgetown restaurants, maybe take a vacation to Hawaii at least once. But I recognize that there is a large chunk of America’s student population (current, former, and future), that may not be able to do that.

The student debt problem is just one product of the massive income-wealth inequality that is the foundation of many problems in our country.

Interestingly, my dear father voted for Trump (in Wisconsin) as an anti-Clinton vote in 2016. I told him that Bernie will cancel my student debt, and I need him to vote for Bernie this year. This time around, my father is “Feelin’ the Bern!” He now has promised me that he will vote for Bernie in both the primary and the General! And you know, I have a feeling that so many Trump voters would switch to Bernie in the General if not in the primaries.

It’s amazing to have a Presidential Candidate that makes me feel that my existence and my “American-ness” matters, TOO.

TWICE. And it’s reassuring to know that I am not the only one.

A part of me wonders why other Democrats do not find value in this, knowing about the popularity and the growth of a beautiful inspiring movement called NotMe.US? Why is there a reluctance to simply even give the due credit to Senator Bernie Sanders for this critical and necessary growth in the Democratic party? We need to have that conversation.


Policies and identity can go hand in hand. And intersectional policies, particularly those that address key socio-economic disparities are crucial. Bernie is the First Presidential Candidate, from my view, that’s truly intersectional, that truly represents me, ideologically, identifies with the struggle of working people, and at the same time, the struggle as a minority.

But I think what people are failing to acknowledge, is that this movement he sparked, isn’t even about him, Senator Bernard Sanders, the “Democratic Socialist.”

It’s about “Us.” ALL of US.

The NotMe.US movement is the most diverse working class, multi-racial, multi-generational, grassroots, bottom-up coalition. It’s historic and unprecedented. It’s incredible, the efforts from volunteers, staffers, and surrogates, and supporters, at a level never seen before in American politics! Bernie inspired this!

And as much as I have wanted to be more involved in this Revolution, out in the “field,” immersing with people, I’ve been stuck behind the computer screen working towards the goal of finishing my doctorate.

Nevertheless, I participated in the “Virginia for Bernie Rally” on February 29th, and on Super Tuesday, I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Virginia Primary for the second time!

Although we didn’t win Virginia, I am glad I got the opportunity to vote for him again. And the Rally was phenomenal. It was truly a gift, an honor, a privilege to see my future President in person….The Revolutionary of my generation… Just a few feet away

I still can’t believe it. And to be at the Rally, with Bernie, and among people who saw Bernie the way I did, was something I really needed, because of this “Berner Stigma” I had been sensing.

There was so much energy at the Rally as always expected at Bernie’s Rallies. Although, I must say it was really nothing compared to Imran Khan’s Address to the Pakistani American Community at the Capital One Arena last summer!

But certainly, it was far more civil, getting into the new Springfield Industrial Fieldhouse, with single-file lines, rather than crowds pushing each other, fighting, cursing, tossing their children over the crowd, when waiting to see their leader. Gotta expect some excitement from the IK fans! 🙂

I do love my Pakistani side, but I must admit, I was more excited to see my future POTUS, Bernie Sanders, up close and personal!

{If you look hard enough, we actually look so much alike! ;)}

Before Sanders took the stage, several other speakers came on. I was particularly excited to hear from a representative from EmGage, who was there to endorse Bernie Sanders, as well as Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who introduced the Senator. Both Muslim American leaders. I believe I comfortably yelled out “Allahu Akbar,” multiple times! Can you imagine doing that at the white supremacist Trump rallies or even those lackluster Biden rallies? It came out naturally, especially when the representative from EmGage described how Senator Bernie Sanders sees him and represents him, being a Muslim American.

And in the opening remarks of Congresswoman Sister Ilhan Omar, she explained the gist of what Bernie has meant for many of us:

“…I know every single one of you in this room sees yourself in that “US”…..Everything they say about our campaign is NOT what our campaign is about…What they say about our campaign is designed to make us INVISIBLE…. Our campaign is designed to make EVERYONE Visible.”

I slipped an “Allahu Akbar” after this as well. 😊 Those words, meaning “God is Great,” faded into the massive crowd, but it was a memorable and profound moment for me.  That I could say something so meaningful to me as a Muslim, out loud in a large crowd of diverse people, and so comfortably, so proudly, without fear of any consequences. Allahu Akbar. God is Great. Allahu Akbar. God is Great. Allahu Akbar. God is Great.

Our Senator Bernie Sanders is a proud Jewish man. On Super Tuesday, 58% of Muslims voted for Bernie Sanders. Allahu Akbar.

And I believe that Senator Bernie Sanders is the only Presidential Candidate in which we Muslim Americans, can finally “take our “Allahu Akbar” back. 

On Super Tuesday, I tweeted/posted that I proudly voted for Bernie because as a Pakistani-Indian, American, Muslim, Women from a small village called Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with big hopes and dreams…. Bernie has made me VISIBLE, as Sister Ilhan Omar stated at the Virginia Rally.

Bernie brought me into the “Political Revolution,” welcomed me to NotMe.US. Bernie helped me understand, through all my senses, that my voice actually does matter in America. It’s not a façade. I’m not a prop that can be used and then abandoned depending on the particular political moment or agenda. I matter. My voice matters.

I feel that Bernie has really enlivened this part of me for good. I feel every single identity and identity intersection I proudly represent, is EMPOWERED, through NotMe.US. There is no going back after you’ve “Felt the Bern,” and in this way… Indeed, this is a “Bern” which will become a permanent scar for many of us…

I know there are people who supported Bernie in 2016, and now do not support him. But I think there are far more who are loyal for a very good reason. No other candidate genuinely, authentically represents these values, with this kind of commitment and integrity.

I also don’t believe people realize how losing Bernie Sanders would hurt so many more people, than it would for Biden supporters to lose Biden in the Primary. Of course, it would hurt. I do not mean to undermine the love that many do have for Biden. But the pain would not be the same as it would be for the Berners.

Bernie supporters love their candidate, wholeheartedly, unconditionally, and it’s a beautiful genuine sincere love that is beyond Bernie, the Senator, the Democratic Socialist. It’s the message which is out of the ordinary. It’s the dream for something bigger than what we’ve always had…

And it appears that many people who are now voting for Biden, are voting because the Democratic Party Establishment has officially declared Biden “The Chosen One,” they fear Bernie losing to Trump, or find the math impossible at this point. I wouldn’t blame them based on the mainstream media propaganda and favoritism throughout this entire Primary. But we know this is not over.


Why do Berners love their candidate in a way different from other supporters for their favored candidates?

Bernie inspires, Bernie leads. Bernie persists.

Bernie consistently has had our back, even before many of us were alive.

He had the foresight to fight for healthcare for everyone…. And now, at a time of crisis, when our health is the number one priority, Bernie’s long fight for Medicare for All is the only answer! This is the leader we need in America right now, to address the crises we are facing here and globally.

For the past five years or so, we have been screaming our lungs out against xenophobia, fascism, Islamophobia, white supremacy, etc.., criticizing all that Trump has emboldened across America, and this is okay, this is righteous anger, that is warranted… But for some reason, something isn’t right about standing up and criticizing the obvious and gross income and wealth inequality, the corporations and big money in politics, the health insurance monopolies… the inequities that originate from the status quo centrism, and arguably that contributed to the rise of a Trump.

In a true Democratic society, shouldn’t our political preferences be expressed openly without fear of any social or professional retributions? Why should we be afraid of saying we want a “Political Revolution,” and hide what we stand for, especially if these are basic principles of humanity, equity, equality, and social and economic justice?

We condemn Trump and that’s necessary. But speaking about the a “Political Revolution,” which is for big structural change, has been characterized as divisive. Concerns regarding corporate media manipulating the masses, and corporations, billionaires and elite dynamics that are crucial barriers to equality and justice, are legitimate concerns. This has caused the long-term damage to our economy, to our social structure and is no longer sustainable…

We can all agree on the need to shut down Trump and his Administration. But status quo politics are dangerous in a different way. And we continue to be forced into choosing between Blue or Red, and those of us who don’t fall into that category are scrutinized and shamed. It’s either that, or being stripped of our voice, our power to be able to select a Presidential Candidate from our heart…from our conscience.

Senator Bernie Sanders has transformed this in American politics. He has presented hope through much-needed intersectional policies and programs, taking real lessons-learned from past failures and addressing the realities of our current times.

We have a candidate that has stated publicly, on National Television:

Palestinians are human beings, and have the right to defend themselves, TOO.

This statement was what won my heart in 2016.

We have a candidate that has taken zero funding from billionaires and super pacs…

Bernie has more individual contributions than any other candidate in American History.

The biggest donor: Teachers!

This is historic and unprecedented on so many levels. Shouldn’t this be impressive to the Democratic party elite establishment, who are supposed to represent the working people of America?

Bernie has inspired so many “little Bernies.”

No matter what happens in the coming months, those little Berners are “Revolutionaries in the making,” and won’t give up on NotMe.US, on the Political Revolution. They won’t let Senator Bernie Sanders, a Revolutionary…. the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr…. disappear without being written in our history books.

And we know that Bernie will continue to have our back till his last breath.

Expressing my “Bernie-love” at times, almost felt (and sometimes still continues to feel) like being open about my Mental Health and promulgating the importance of Mental Health Awareness. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. And it’s a lonely feeling at times. It’s very hard for those of us who struggle with this and it’s an awful feeling, the uncertainty:  if I continue to express myself… what will happen? Will I lose professional collaborations and opportunities?… Will I lose friends in my social networks? (as noted, this has already happened)… it’s hard being “alone” on this, in my networks… And hard not being able to have the one-on-one in-person conversations with people who strongly believe in Bernie and his movement, in the same way as I do.

It’s hasn’t been easy to be expressive online and offline about why I believe in the “Political Revolution.” Just as it is not easy to share mental health awareness posts… with the goal to defeat that Stigma…

I’m not certain if any other Bernie supporters feel the same way. But people have shared with me, those in my Academic network, that it does not look good among “their circles.” And I sensed the same in mine.

I understand there could be many reasons for this. The “Berner Stigma” may not exist for everyone, but I believe it is real for many of us. To the least, my hope is that I am not alone is this feeling. And I think it may reveal an inherent problem in our Democracy.


We are living in an important moment for “Intersectionality.”

We cannot allow this moment to be stripped away from us. We cannot allow this opportunity to be taken away….the opportunity to have a truly “Intersectional” President, at a time when “intersectionality” is the way forward.

I feel very sad that we live in world that people feel they should hide their beliefs … This should not be America. As in the case with mental health awareness. The more we give into the fear and the stigma of “what would people think of us,” if we share our stories, what consequences there may be, the more difficult it will be to come together as strongly as we need, towards progress and long-term change. Real change takes time, it’s painful, and it requires the patience and understanding that it will be hard. But we must be moving in that direction. 

I don’t hate you if you prefer more centrist or moderate policies, or even if you may have chosen “safety,” or “fear,” in this election, even though I don’t believe there is anything to fear with Bernie. Similarly, I would just ask you don’t hate me because I want real structural change in society that will:

  • Address the climate change problem from the very ROOT of the causes, through the Green New Deal.
  • Guarantee healthcare as a human right through Medicare for All.
  • Ensure students (current and former) won’t be slaves to their debt and help them have a chance at a good quality life after college.
  • Put an end to senseless interventions and transform our foreign policies.
  • Finally tackle the income-wealth inequality in this country.

Whatever happens in this election, I’ll always be “Bernie-ful,” and I hope you won’t hate me for it.

Whatever happens in this election, I hope that people can see the “pain” and the “love” that lured millions of Americans towards NotMe.US…that it’s real, and that we matter, too, as Americans.

The Democratic party establishment would find themselves in the same situation as that in 2016, if they continue to “hate us” for dreaming and fighting for a more progressive future….If they choose not to acknowledge and honor the pain and love that connected us to Bernie….if they once again blame progressives for participating in Democracy and fighting for what they believe in from the very core of their heart. They can’t keep trying to erase our existence and continue to strip our “power” away…

Going forward, if we continue to fuel the “Berner Stigma,” in any way, the Democrats will lose the elections. We need the Berners. We need people like me. If we don’t have any Berners in our social networks, we all should be open to engaging and welcoming them. Do not delete, ‘unfollow,’ or erase us. Do not disengage. You must engage. We must all continue to engage. And we have emerged. We are here for the long-haul…

At this very moment, NotMe.US continues to fight for a chance to show that Progressives CAN win.

And for the sake of our country, for the future generations, if you truly believe in NotMe.US, please remember that NotMe.US is a massive, multi-racial, multi-generational, bottom-up, grassroots, diverse, working class movement. We must not be afraid to speak up for it. We must not be defeated or demoralized. We can’t afford to be silent. We need to eliminate the “Berner Stigma” now, before it’s too late. And we do this by standing by Senator Bernie Sanders, voting for him. And by “showing up” in whatever ways we can.

We need you to tell your “Bernie story,” and your “Bernie Truth.”

We need your voice. I know it is hard for some of us, but please don’t give up, and please don’t choose silence. Please engage.

Senator Bernie Sanders reminded me that I too, as an American, can engage.

He showed me how. He showed me that I too have the right to tell the world that I, as an American, believe healthcare should be a human right in America, just like many other countries around the world!

Bernie did that for me…and so many other millions of Americans, young and old. I will never forget that.

We are living in a completely different era now. As Bernie has stated, multiple times, it’s literally come down to who’s side we are on

I hope with all my heart, that we can all come together and be on the right side of history with Senator Bernie Sanders and NotMe.US.

Remember what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated:

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our Friends.”

We need your voice. Let us continue to vote out of love and hope, for a brighter future, not out of fear or hate. Progressives love humanity, and most Bernie supporters are lovers, not haters, not “Bernie Bros.”

Yes. There are Brown American Sisters like me who’ve been ALL IN for NotMe.US, with so much love to give to the world. Bernie is now a critical part of our story…and our journey to contribute in elevating the dignity of the “marginalized” and “forgotten.”

Brothers and sisters, this will be our last chance for a long time, potentially 12-16 years according to some analysts/pundits, for the next “window of opportunity” to embrace a true Progressive agenda that meets the challenges already unraveling before us…

Please, let’s not take this moment for granted.

Let’s fight for NotMe.US!!!

“My message to you today, is that if there was ever a moment in the history of our country, where despair was not an option, this is that time.”

– Senator Bernie Sanders

With peace, warmth, blessings, and heart,

Your “Bernie Sister”,


Warrior KQueen

Image may contain: Elsa Talat Khwaja, crowd and indoor

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

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