Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) don’t need me, or anyone really, to stand up for them against Donald Trump.
They are intelligent, accomplished, and all four won their elections fairly. And during their press conference Monday, they showed they are more than capable of not just standing up against the president’s bigoted fearmongering and harmful policies, but for a country that lives up to its most fundamental values.
The congresswomen certainly do not need saviors — but we need to be allies. We have a collective responsibility to speak out and speak up against this attack and everything it represents.
The words Donald Trump chose — telling four American congresswomen, three of whom were born in the United States — to “go back” were purposefully racist. He invoked a centuries-old weapon — a message not just to the four congresswomen but to all people of color: Your identity does not belong to you, your history does not belong to you, your body does not belong to you.
And his message wasn’t just for us — it was a dangerous declaration from the highest office in the land about whom he believes is worthy of protection. His message was as clear as it is dangerous and it is the kind of rhetoric that gives license to the violent white supremacy he refuses to condemn. Despite the president’s failure to acknowledge it, white supremacist terror is a serious threat; the majority of terrorist attacks since 9/11 have been from right-wing extremist groups, and the majority of those have been white supremacist groups.
The president’s words and his decision to target four congresswomen of color was alone a dangerous and disgusting display of racism and bigotry. But it also reveals a pernicious truth: Donald Trump chose to target four women of color because he believes he can.
He chose to target them for the same reason his administration’s immigration policy is steeped in xenophobia and is putting Brown women and children in cages at our southern border.
And he chose to target them for the same reason that we live in a country where women of color are disproportionately targeted by our broken criminal justice system, where Black women’s pain is minimized in a broken health care system, and where Black and Latina women are paid cents on the dollar compared to other groups.
This most recent display of the president’s bigotry does not exist in a vacuum — it exists in an environment that is the result of centuries of systemic oppression.
The next president of the United States has an obligation not just to condemn this vile and racist language but to commit to repairing centuries of harm with a bold, forward-looking vision — for taking on the maternal mortality epidemic that is disproportionately killing women of color, for closing the persistent racial wealth gap, for ending the separation of families of color in America, in our broken immigration system and in our broken system of mass incarceration.
Let us use this moment not just to condemn Donald Trump — we know what we’ve got in him — but to commit ourselves to build a truly just nation.
Women of color and especially Black women have been at the heart of every fight for justice throughout our country’s history, fighting not just for themselves, but for all of us. Too often, we have failed them.
Like Angela Davis once said, “It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” And in this moral moment, that means it is not enough to be outraged without action — it’s time to stand up and stand with women of color, now and in the fights ahead.