Black Women’s Roundtable [BWR] recently partnered with National African American Clergy Network, Power Rising and over 40 Black women leaders to speak out against racism, sexism and white nationalism in an open letter denouncing attacks by President Trump against women of color public servants over the past week.
We, the undersigned, join all Americans who are outraged at the series of attacks by [President Trump] on Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna S. Pressley and Rashida Tlaib – all women of color who were recently elected representing a new generation of public servants.
We are horrified that [Trump] 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 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 support 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 and forced into free labor to build this country, we know all too well what racism, white nationalism and sexism look, sound and feel like.
“Go back to where you came from” is a chant Blacks 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 Omar and her colleagues love this country less than the primarily white chanters and therefore should leave.
While Trump did not start racism and white nationalism, 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 by failing to be the president of all Americans as he promised and is required by The Constitution. border; and pushing a “love our country or leave it” call to four elected members of Congress.
The 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 Rep. John Lewis, activist Amelia Boyton and other marchers; and more recently the attack by neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist groups against demonstrators in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of demonstrator Heather Heyer.
We unite to declare, “Enough is enough!” The time is up for blatant disrespect of Congressional women of color: Reps. Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Frederica Wilson, Karen Bass; others of the Congressional Black Caucus; and now the four freshmen congressional women of color referred to as “The Squad.” The time is up for people of color being the targets and scapegoats for America’s failed policies of justice and equality.
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 fight against racism, sexism, hate and religious intolerance, whenever, wherever and by whomever – just as our ancestors did. Join us in Solidarity.
Melanie L. Campbell, president/CEO, NCBCP and BWR convener