Words || Angelica Ojinnaka
Ethno-diverse women/women of colour are slowly, very slowly, ascending through ceilings, smashing walls and making the legs of their white male counterparts quiver at the sight of their extraordinary intelligence. In the United States of America, we have seen a slight rise of intersectional representation in politics, particularly through the group now christened as “The Squad”. Four bold and firm women who are not afraid to speak their views, challenging the historically white hierarchy that exists in the United States of America.
The four congresswomen that I refer to are Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
The four women have been daring amid heavy scrutiny, for their defiance of the Trump administration. And what happens when one chooses to be loud in their distaste for Trump…well…they become political targets for racism, ill-questioning of their patriotism to the U.S. and attempts to silence their right to free speech.
The “Ungrateful” and “Unpatriotic” one, Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Abdullahi Omar was first elected into office in 2016, and then elected into the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, for Minnesota’s 5th district. An iconic and historic election for Minnesota, Omar continues to receive significant support from its residents and has always been well respected by the community. Omar is one of the four Democratic members of Congress, who have been on the receiving end of intense criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump, claim she has radical hatred for faiths outside her own.
The one they wish to “throw over the wall”, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
AOC is currently the Member of the U.S. House of Representative from New York’s 14th district. She rose to notoriety for being the youngest woman to ever serve in the United States Congress. Although born in the U.S. because she is of Puerto Rican, AOC has often faced racist remarks about her passion for immigrant communities and those across the U.S. border.
The “sneaky black one”, Ayanna Pressley
Pressley serves as the Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts’s 7th district. In recent times, there have been attempts made to claim that Pressley is sneaky in her quietness amongst the group of four. Unfortunately, this is a comment trope utilized to pit women against each other and force a divide in allegiance.
The “Dishonouring, Impeach Advocate”, Rashida Harbi Tlaib
Finally, completing the pack is Rashida Harbi Tlaib. She is currently serving in Congress as the representative for Michigan’s 13th district. Rashida has been a strong voice in holding Trump accountable for his actions, misconduct and irresponsible language. She, like the other congresswomen, often draws attention to the disparities in condemnation that white male powers in American politics face, in comparison to people of colour.
What happens to women of colour in politics is unforgiving but not uncommon, and has now become a normalised hallmark of their time in any level of office. What happens is that when a women of colour in politics dares to speak her truth, her supporters truth and challenge Trump, it is met with an unhealthy and immediate obsession and attack on their birth status, ethnic background and skin colour. Although this does occur to their “men of colour” counterparts, what is added to their assault is the devaluation of their gender. They are denounced as being quote “ungrateful” (Trump’s words), for not remaining silent.
On July 14th 2019, Trump put out a vile racist fuelled tweet that shook many people in America and prompted calls for action, on his continual attacks to people of colour. The racist lines that he uses are common of some white men in politics, those who forget they themselves are immigrants. The tweets read as so:
“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……”
“….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….”
Because of both these tweets, the four Congresswomen courageously fronted the press to share that they will not be shaken by Trump’s words. In true Trump fashion, he recently went on to state that Ilhan Omar “hates Jews”, a statement she has never said and that she “supports Al-Qaeda”, which there is no evidence of.
People of diverse ethnic backgrounds in political leadership spheres, live with this line being constantly thrown their way, to bring them down. Being told to go back to where they came from casts people of colour as if they are worth nothing, are not worthy citizens, and even worse are vermin in humanity. Many people, including the four congresswomen, felt immune to the comment because of its repetitive us but unfortunately Trump’s tweets did open up the floodgates to the racist disciples of Trump, as well as threats to life.
Ilhan Omar herself certainly has had much to answer for regarding comments made about Israel, suggesting that she is supposedly “Anti-Semitic”. Her recent trip to Jerusalem has thus been shut down, with Israel banning her from visiting and denying her entry into the nation (along with Tlaib). Trump instigated this prompt to Israel with his tweet:
“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
If you compare the condemnation that Trump received for his racist comments, in comparison to the comments made by Ilhan Omar regarding Israel (which can be interpreted in many ways), you can see clear differences. What does this have to say to the younger generation of women of colour who are aiming to rise and represent their nation in Congress.
It says that you are not worthy unless you are willing to shut up, bow down or clap along. And yet, Trump has yet to be as highly condemned for incitement of violence against Ilhan Omar.
It might be odd to add this disclaimer towards to end, but let it be made very clear that the experiences of women of culturally diverse backgrounds in politics transcend into all sides of politics. This “well we gave them a seat at the table, so we are more inclusive” nonsense needs to be scrunched up and thrown outside a window. It is about time that women of colour could represent their views fairly, have their opinions be scrutinised without the vilification of their cultural identity being the first line of rebuttal and be able to defend their human rights, just as easily as their white male counterparts.
Ilhan Omar, along with the other four congresswomen, continue to be a force to be reckoned with but history tells us that women of colour are often betrayed by their own. In the months leading up to the 2020 election, let’s see who remains tall with them.