“Racist” is the watchword on every pen and tongue explaining why President Donald Trump denounced four young congresswomen of color who are way left of center. But it’s not all black and white.
That’s half the sordid story of the presidential crossfire. The genius in the White House framed the four women as perfect victims because they are women.
Count misogyny in.
The youngest is a rising star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Nothing makes a master madder than a woman who acts “uppity,” a word heard in the old plantation South.
The scene is playing perfectly into Trump’s hands. Frankly, my dear, he doesn’t give a darn about being called racist. It’s a badge of honor he plans to wave into the 2020 election. Better yet if he can unleash the dogs and whistles against women.
That’s “who we are” as a country this scorching summer: back to the specter of the Old South. The strategy is to bring out the worst in us, make us hate one another — and the immigrants even more. It worked before.
The other three Democrats, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, are courageous young voices new to Congress. It’s no accident Trump attacked the most junior women of color outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s mainstream coalition.
The self-titled “squad” of women are black, Muslim or Latina. The president harshly told them to “go back” to the “crime infested” places they represent. Only one was born outside the United States, in Somalia, and came here as a refugee.
Of course, Trump’s meaning was more insidious: that they don’t belong here as citizens and legitimately elected representatives of the people.
Since white male supremacy stepped onto the Republican stage, we’ve seen open season on sweet reason. The party stays silent as the lambs on the way to the county fair. The Charlottesville, Virginia, race riot was the nadir. In the wake of an armed white male mob, a young woman lay dying.
Now Trump emboldens white male anger with even more venom, with a lot of help from his Fox friends and “chat” rooms degrading women and people of color. Law enforcement is not immune to this trend.
Pelosi spoke forthrightly when she said the four in the squad are alone in her center left and moderate caucus, but her “four votes” comment did not land well.
For centuries, Southern black women bore the most brutal brunt of slavery because their bodies were subject to their white master’s violation and abuse.
The squad stood up together in a spirited press conference. Omar said that white nationalism is at work. That sounded nice next to Trump’s claim that she and the others hate their country. He would not say something so ugly about men of color in Congress.
The congresswomen speak the English language worlds better than Trump’s first lady, Slovenia-born Melania Trump.
Trump loves to put women down, in their proper place. He once kept company with notorious Jeffrey Epstein, now facing federal charges for abusing underage girls. Epstein, he boasted, “loves beautiful women as much as I do.”
In the House, these four vocal yet vulnerable women, with ages ranging from 29 to 45, chide and challenge Trump. They defy him more often than most in the large Democratic freshman class of 2018. Two called for his impeachment. They grill devious Cabinet secretaries under oath on Capitol Hill.
Omar’s political skills are rougher than the rest. Early, she enraged some House Democrats with rash remarks about Israel and Sept. 11.
Make no mistake, Trump is enraged when anyone crosses him, publicly or privately. But women pay the highest price because they are there to be judged, measured, poked, insulted and silenced by him.
“Racism.” Good people — and pundits — flinch at the painful meaning, the lived experience. White people would do well not to toss the word so freely, like we know. People of color are the best judges of that.
But women know the other dark side of Trump is talking, too.