DETROIT — Bernie Sanders on Monday attempted to clarify his suggestion that white people “don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto.”
“What I meant to say is when you talk about ghettos traditionally, what you’re talking about is African-American communities,” Sanders told a gaggle of reporters on the runway just outside of the campaign's charter plane.
“I think many white people are not aware of the kinds of pressures and the kind of police oppression that sometimes takes place within the African-American community,” Sanders added.
Sanders comments, made during Sunday's Democratic presidential debate, drew sharp criticism on social media and was a part of a longer answer from Sanders at CNN’s Democratic Debate in Flint, Michigan, after being asked if the candidate felt he had any "racial blind spots.”
“When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car,” Sanders said at the debate.
This response came after he emotionally recalled a story of an African-American colleague of his in the House choosing not to hail a cab fearing humiliation that cab drivers would “go past him because he was black."
NBC News asked Sanders surrogate and former president of the NAACP Ben Jealous how he felt about the Vermont senator’s initial comments suggesting white people do not know what it’s like to be poor or live in a ghetto. Jealous disagreed with the premise of the question.
“Senator Sanders is from Burlington. He grew up in old Brooklyn, he knows white folks live in ghettos,” said Jealous.
Jealous and Sanders both pointed to what they believed was the crux of the issue they were speaking about: poverty.
"There’s nobody in this campaign who has talked about poverty, whether it is in the white community, the black community, the Latino community more than I have,” said Sanders on the tarmac. "We have 47 million people living in poverty in America, and in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, that is a disgrace, absolutely."