#BlackLivesMatter Was Arguably the Real Winner of the First Democratic Debate

October 14th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

At the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election season, CNN host Anderson Cooper posed a question that has polarized the country this year: "Do Black Lives Matter, or do all lives matter?"

In response to instances of police brutality against Black Americans, the Black Lives Matter movement quickly spread and gained influence as a political voice. Critics of the movement have frequently used the phrase "all lives matter," suggesting that the focus on Black rights is misguided.

The candidates were asked about the #BlackLivesMatter movement...

The candidates were asked about the #BlackLivesMatter movement at the #DemDebate.

Posted by ATTN: on Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders answered first, stating unequivocally that "Black Lives Matter." He went on to address issues of racial inequality and police brutality. He specifically referenced Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old woman who was found dead in a Texas jail cell after being pulled over for a traffic stop.

"We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system in which we have more people in jail than China," Sanders said.

Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton agreed with Sanders and said that there is need for reform measures that focus on addressing issues of mass incarceration. She called for a bipartisan "new New Deal for communities of color," but some Black Lives Matter advocates felt that she didn't go far enough.

Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, said that Black Lives Matter raises a "very, very legitimate and serious point" and argued that the country "undervalued black lives."

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb stood out for his position on Black Lives Matter, which appeared to be in opposition to the other candidates. He argued that "every life in this country matters," prompting backlash on Twitter.

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee didn't get a chance to address the topic, but overall, the widespread support for the Black Lives Matter movement at Tuesday's debate signaled changing attitudes about the importance of racial inequality in the U.S.