On July 14th, the 45th president of the United States continued his sustained public assault against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as well as her colleagues, Congresswomen Ayana Presley, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In a series of Tweets from the White House, Donald Trump told these Congresswomen to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The statement strategically blurred the lines between the women’s diverse backgrounds and was designed to erase their status as American citizens in the eyes of the president’s supporters. The ultimate political purpose was to transform these four individuals into a single target of sexist, racist and xenophobic ire. The attack proved effective. In Greenville, NC, the president’s supporters were inspired by his continued attacks on Representative Omar to chant the words, “send her back”.
The president’s racist, sexist and nativist attacks are not new; they are foundational to his rise to public prominence political power. And, such attacks have also played a central role in the violent history of the United States. In full awareness of this history, and in a shared mission to help create a different future, the Shirley Chisholm Project declares our support for Representatives Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Presley and Tlaib.
These Representatives have emerged onto the national stage at an important time in American history, one in which the nation is forced to confront its longstanding policies of violence and discrimination against women and people of color—particularly those who have challenged the United States to serve all of the human beings who live within its bounds and respect all of the human beings who are impacted by its influence.Whether or not we stand for these Congresswomen and the people they represent—women, immigrants, political dissenters and people of color— will define what kind of future is possible for the United States and its inhabitants.
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm once wrote of the importance of women fighting for social change, admitting that “Against them is arrayed the weight of centuries of tradition.” In that spirit, we applaud Ilhan Omar and her fellow Congresswomen for continuing the fight for humane policies even against the institutional power of the current administration and its supporters. Furthermore, Congresswomen, we write to make it known that despite the forces—historical and contemporary—arrayed against you, you do not stand alone.
The Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism