Thursday, July 18, 2019

To Whom the Future of America Belongs

I would have liked to have been out at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport earlier today to show my support for Rep. Ilhan Omar as she returned to Minnesota from Washington D.C. (left).

Here's how Minnesota Public Radio's Cody Nelson reported on Omar's arrival and the recent controversy around President Trump's racist and incendiary comments directed towards her and three other women of color in the U.S. congress.

Rep. Ilhan Omar met a warm welcome in her home state Thursday, as a crowd of supporters greeted the Minneapolis Democrat at the airport following days of racist remarks that President Trump and his supporters directed at Omar and three other congresswomen.

“The reality is everybody talks about how [Trump] is threatened because we criticize him,” Omar told a crowd shortly after getting off her plane. “But the reality is he is threatened because we are inspiring people to dream about a country that recognizes our dignity and our humanity.”

Omar will moderate a town hall in south Minneapolis on health care tonight with U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat who represents Seattle.

Trump tweeted Sunday that four progressive women in Congress should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The tweet is widely thought to refer to Omar and other Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. [Three of the four were actually born in the U.S.] Later, Trump singled out Omar in an impromptu exchange with media at a White House event.

On Wednesday night, Trump made false claims about the Minnesota congresswoman at a rally in North Carolina, inaccurately suggesting she was an al-Qaeda sympathizer. The president’s speech inspired the Greenville, N.C., crowd to begin chanting “send her back,” referring to Omar — a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Somalia as a child refugee.

Ilhan Omar's comments at the airport today remind me of a recent op-ed by Moustafa Bayoumi, who writes that “lurking behind the statement 'go back to where you come from' is the clenched fist of a privileged but frightened group . . . the future belongs to a multicultural, multiracial, and multifaith America.”

Following, with added images and links, is Bayoumi's op-ed in its entirety.


This Is What Today's America Looks Like.
The Squad Is Us

By Moustafa Bayoumi

The Guardian
July 16, 2019

On Monday, the best of the United States of America was on full display.

In a moving press conference in Washington, DC, the four progressive congresswomen now known the world over as “the squad” – Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashid Tlaib – proclaimed their profound support for each other after enduring blatantly racist abuse by Donald Trump. And they did more. They redoubled their commitments to improving the lives of all the people in this country.

It was a remarkable moment, an urgently needed example of what leadership – real leadership, leadership that is principled, intelligent, courageous, and resolute – looks like. I hope Nancy Pelosi was watching.

What I saw at this press conference was an inspiring tableau of today’s America, four women of color offering moral and political guidance to a nation that is being goaded by its commander-in-chief to embrace the schoolyard taunts of a wanton bigot.

Not that much prodding has ever been needed to activate racism in this country. If your skin is any darker than the peel of a honeydew melon, if your eyes have ever been compared to the shape of almonds, if your name has been called unpronounceable and changed without your consent, if you’re constantly asked “but where are you from from,” if you’ve been complimented for being different than the rest of them, if your faith elicits unsolicited political commentary, if people always seem to want to touch your hair, then chances are you’ve also been told, at many times in your life, that you should go back to where you came from.

I, for one, have been frequently told this all my life, and it happens most often now in hate mail and missives that regularly land in my inbox. In my case, the insult routinely borders on the comical. Never quite sure where they should be sending me back to, my detractors will dutifully resort to some internet research, only to discover that I was born in Switzerland. Somehow, “Go back to Switzerland!” just doesn’t carry the menace that they seem to think it has.

We can laugh at the racism of fools, but every person of color in this country will also recognize the simmering violence behind these (and similar) statements. To be told to “go back to where you came from” is to be told not only that you don’t belong, but that you have no say in what the standards of belonging should be in the first place.

To be told to “go back to where you came from” is a form of being told to shut up, an obvious attempt to silence dissent and political participation. And being told to “go back to where you came from” is to deny the history of slavery and the colonization of indigenous lands in this country, since it also assumes that we all came to this territory voluntarily.

Lurking behind the statement “go back to where you come from” is the clenched fist of a privileged but frightened group, one that is dreadfully afraid of listening to “those ignored, left out, and left behind,” as Ayanna Pressley put it on Monday. Merely listening, they believe, will weaken their traditional hold on power. All around them they see a fabled version of the old America slipping inexorably away.

But the old America that they dream of never was and never will be. All the attempts by this administration to turn back the clock of change – from adding a citizenship question to the census, to distorting the rules on asylum, to wrenching families apart with Dickensian cruelty, to barring Muslims from entering the country – will ultimately fail to produce the America they desperately desire.

On the contrary, the future belongs to a multicultural, multiracial, and multifaith America, and watching the four congresswomen of “the squad” on Monday only confirms this fact. “Our squad is big,” Pressley stated. “Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world. And that is the work we want to get back to. Given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not be silenced.”

She’s right. I have seen the squad. The squad is us.

– Moustafa Bayoumi
The Guardian
July 16, 2019

Related Off-site Links
“Welcome Home, Ilhan!” Omar Greeted With Cheering Crowd After Return To Minnesota – Cristina Cabrera (Talking Points Memo, July 18, 2019).
Supporters Rally Around Rep. Ilhan Omar Following “Send Her Back!” Attacks – Torey Van Oot and Jessie Van Berkel (Star Tribune, July 18, 2019).
Crowd Chants “Send Her Back” as Trump Escalates Attacks on Ilhan Omar and “The Squad” – Betsy Klein (CNN, July 18, 2019).
“Send Her Back”: The Bigoted Rallying Cry of Trump 2020 – Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic, July 18, 2019).
Rep. Ilhan Omar Responds to “Send Her Back” Chant with Maya Angelou Poem – Lauren Frias (Business Insider, July 18, 2019).
House Democrats Warn Omar in “Imminent Danger” After Trump Rally Chants – Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan (Politico, July 18, 2019).
To Protect Ilhan Omar, We Must Beat Back the March of Fascism – Kelly Hayes (TruthOut, July 18, 2019).
Trump’s Hateful Lies About Ilhan Omar – Daniel Larison (The American Conservative, July 17, 2019).
Trump's Premeditated Racism Is Central to His 2020 Strategy – Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (Axios, July 18, 2019).
Trump’s Racist Rhetoric Is Deliberate – Will It Lead Us to Fascism? – Henry Giroux (The Real News Network, July 17, 2019).
“Face of Evil”: Fascism Scholar Calls Out Trump Rally Crowd Chanting “Send Her Back, Send Her Back” – Chantal Da Silva (Newsweek, July 18, 2019).
Rabbi in Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s District Compares Trump Rally to “Nazi Germany“ – Jon Schlosberg (ABC News, July 18, 2019).
Donald Trump Has Made It Clear: The Only “Real Americans” Are White and Christian – Theodore R. Johnson (The Guardian, July 16, 2019).
Republicans Want a White Republic. They'll Destroy America to Get It – Carol Anderson (TIME, July 17, 2019).
Poll: Most Americans Call Trump’s Tweets Targeting 4 Congresswomen “Un-American” – Susan Page (MSN News, July 17, 2019).
Here's the Real Reason Trump Is Attacking “The Squad”: He’s Scared of Their Politics – Joshua Leifer (The Guardian, July 17, 2019).
Top 4 Ways the Squad of Young Congresswomen Represent More Americans Than Trump – Juan Cole (Informed Comment via Common Dreams, July 16, 2019).
The Squad’s Defenders Represent a Better America than Trump Does – Greg Sargent (The Washington Post via MSN News, July 18, 2019).
House Votes to Condemn Trump's Racist Tweets With Support From Only 4 Republicans – Christal Hayes, Jason Lalljee and Sarah Elbeshbishi (USA Today, July 16, 2019).
Republican Silence on Trump’s Racist Tweets Shows How Fearful They’ve Become of Defying Him and Losing Voters – John Haltiwanger (Business Insider, July 15, 2019).
Federal Law Says “Go Back To Where You Came From” Counts As Discrimination – Sanjana Karanth (The Huffington Post, July 16, 2019).
Trump’s “Go Back” Racist Epithet; Oh, So Familiar – Jud Lounsbury (The Progressive, July 15, 2019).
“This Is the Agenda of White Nationalists”: The Squad Condemns Trump’s Racist Remarks – Kara Voght (Mother Jones, July 15, 2019).
There's a Sobering Truth to Trump's Racist Tweets That We Don't Like to Admit – John Blake (CNN, July 15, 2019).
If There Is an “Immigrant’ Who Has Failed to Integrate in America, It’s Donald Trump – Richard Wolffe (The Guardian, July 15, 2019).
Rep. Ilhan Omar Has Been a U.S. Citizen Longer Than Melania Trump – David Moye (The Huffington Post, July 15, 2019).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Responds to Trump’s Attack: “You Rely on a Frightened America for Your Plunder” – Carl Gibson (Grit Post, July 14, 2019).
Why They Fear Ilhan Omar – Dina Nayeri (Slate, July 14, 2019).

UPDATES: Targeted by Trump, Rep. Ilhan Omar and the “Squad” Are Raising Impressive Campaign Funds – Steve Karnowski and Brian Slodysko (Associated Press via Pioneer Press, July 20, 2019).
Dante, Trump and the Moral Cowardice of the G.O.P. – Charles Sykes (The Atlantic, July 21, 2019).
The God of Love Had a Really Bad Week – Diana Butler Bass (CNN, July 20, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Perspectives on the Ilhan Omar “Controversy”
Ilhan Omar on The Daily Show
Quote of the Day – February 11, 2019
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
In Charlottesville, the Face of Terrorism In the U.S.
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

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