“If I take a finger and touch you, you won’t even know you’ve been tapped. If I take two fingers, you will know that something touched you. But if I bring all of those fingers together in a fist, I can give you a terrible blow!”
Dr. Dorothy I. Height
We, the undersigned, join all Americans who are outraged at the series of attacks by the President of the United States on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman Ayanna S. Pressley, and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who are all women of color that were recently elected representing a new generation of public servants.
We are horrified that the president of the United States would attack these congressional leaders by name in such a derogatory and incendiary manner in a recent campaign rally that had a primarily white crowd — calling out Rep. Omar, who is a Muslim American, with the throwback, racist chant “send her back.” Sadly, the crowd was also filled with many white children who joined in the chants, taking these ugly racially charged sentiments into the mindset of future generations.
We are extremely concerned and alarmed that too many political leaders are supporting President Trump’s racism and white nationalist views through their silence, endorsement, or excuses. As Black women, who solemnly recognize that 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the first captive Africans landing in Jamestown, Va., being forced into free labor to build this country — we know all too well what racism, white nationalism and sexism looks like, sounds like and feels like.
“Go back to where you came from” is a chant Black people, and other people of color have heard our entire lives in this country. To be clear, racism is the belief that one racial or ethnic group is superior to another. The blatant and inexcusable racism of the chant implies that Rep. Omar and her colleagues love this country less than the primarily white chanters and therefore should leave.
While President Trump did not start racism and white nationalism in our nation, he has exploited it for his economic and political gain. Our nation has also never addressed forthrightly America’s historic racial and ethnic divisions. Yet, he has made the problem of racial tension worse because he has failed to be the president of all Americans as he promised, and is required by the constitution.
Trump's history of inadequately addressing questions of race spans years, from his spreading false “birtherism” claims that America's first Black president was not born in the United States, calls for the execution of the "Central Park 5" who were later exonerated, supporting white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., attack on Black athletes kneeling for justice and calling them “SOBs”, calling African nations “s__thole” countries, attempt to impose Muslim travel ban, administration policy of caging and separating babies from their families at the border; and pushing a “love our country or leave it” call to four elected members of Congress.
These are all examples of the president exacerbating the racial divides in our country. The campaign crowd he encouraged to participate in “send her back,” chants, are frightfully reminiscent of crowds whipped up into hateful attacks in the 1950s and 1960s against the Little Rock Nine; against Black men, women, children, and others peacefully marching during the Civil Rights Movement, against the “Bloody Sunday,” Selma to Montgomery marchers, including severely beaten Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis, qctivist Amelia Boyton and other marchers; and more recently the attack by neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, and other white nationalist groups against demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va. that resulted in the death of demonstrator, Heather Heyer.
Hate-filled words have impact on inciting violence, such as a man inspired by the president's words who months ago sent pipe bombs to high level democratic leaders; the rise in hate crimes and hate groups and, school bullying; the calling of police by white people on Black people for showing up Black, and random attacks on America's streets against people. Hate is a cancer that spreads and harms the entire bodythe American people of every background.
We unite to declare — enough is enough! The time is up for blatant disrespect of congressional women of color, like Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Congresswoman Karen Bass, other women of the Congressional Black Caucus; and now the four freshmen congressional women of color (referred to as The Squad) and others. Also, the time is up for people of color being the targets and scapegoats for America's failed policies of justice and equality!
Know that Black women and our allies across generations are putting everyone on notice that every time these despicably racist and nationalist sentiments are voiced or written, we will rapidly respond, react, and confront those responsible at every level. We also caution the news media against affirming, perpetuating, and being complicit with America's growing division by repeating as "breaking news" every insult coming predictably from the White House until Americans become numb and tune it out.
Most Americans are weary of the escalating racial division. Where are their stories? Where are the stories of people attempting to build bridges of racial healing across the nation. Where are the stories of Black women and other women of color telling their own truths about the impact of overt bigotry and implicit bias? And, where are the stories of leaders of every background calling America to the highest ideals of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights? To the question posed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his book, "Where Do We Go From Here?: Chaos or Community," we cannot yet say, like many leaders today, "We are better than this!" We are not better than this, but we can be.
Black women across generations will not be silent. United with other women of color and our allies, we are fortified, ready and willing to continue to fightagainst racism, sexism, hate and religious intolerance, whenever, wherever and by whomever — just as our ancestors did.
Read more about the signatories and the letter here.