Dear President Trump,
All day today I’ve been thinking about Ilhan Omar, wondering how she’s holding up, wondering how her children and her parents are holding up. They’re almost certainly all very stressed and worried for her safety, and likely their own as well. I feel stressed and worried for her safety and for the safety of the hundreds of thousands of other Muslim women in the US. Actually, I feel worried for the safety of all women and men of color; it’s been bad and it’s getting worse by the day.
I’m 100% sure you didn’t see the HP article and just as sure that if you did see it, you would side with the white man who verbally assaulted Georgia State Representative Erica Thomas as she waited to check-out at the grocery store with her 9-year old daughter. He took issue with her being in the 10-item or fewer check-out line with more than 10 items, completely disregarding that she is 9 months pregnant. He felt license to call her names and to tell her to go back where she came from. Now, do you think in a million, trillion years that he would have gone off on a white pregnant woman with more than 10 items in the 10-item check-out line? Or what about a white man with too many items? I think we would all grow old and die waiting for either of those kind of people to be attacked like this.
I have a friend at church who is 92 and she’s told me a couple of times that she’s the only white person on the Washington Foundation Board here in Seattle (the Washington Foundation encourages creativity and a sense of community in the African American community in central Seattle). When I saw her the other day she talked about how at the end of all their board meetings, the other members make a point of telling each other to be safe and to take care out there. She said the leave taking blessings for safety and well-being go on for a long time and that no one can leave without receiving multiple such well wishes. She noted how different this is from what white people say to each other when a meeting breaks up and how surprising it was to her the first few times she witnessed it. She’s actually told me this a few times now so it’s clearly made an impression on her, as did her own lack of awareness of how African American people have felt under siege and unsafe out in public forever.
I think because my brother has talked with me for years about how stressful it is for him to walk down the streets of Portland or ride Tri-Met or breathe anywhere out in public, I’ve long been aware that many African American people go through their days bracing for racist confrontations. This is not because they are paranoid; it’s because these things regularly happen. These things happened long before you took office and you started your careful gathering of the dry tinder of racism and began stacking it into perfect little log cabins that are just waiting for a spark to ignite them into hate crimes.
One of Representative Omar’s hard, hard messages for America is that we are not, nor have we ever been, a just land. When her family came from a refugee camp in Kenya after being forced to leave their home in Somalia, they expected America would at least be a fair place, a place where people were treated justly and everyone had a chance to thrive. She is understandably bitterly disappointed that the shiny words and ideals of our Constitution are so damn hollow that people who look like her, who look like my brother, cannot even move about in their daily lives without fear, let alone expect to be treated fairly in educational, work, and criminal “justice” settings.
And you are willfully making this worse. You are actively endangering my brother, Omar, her children, and her parents. You are actively endangering my friend’s friends on the Washington Foundation Board. You are actively endangering my pastor and her daughter, her brother, and her grandmother.
You are a racist menace and all of us need to be calling you out. We cannot simply chalk up your behavior to politicking or ignorance or any other convenient half-truth – you are fueling hate pure and simple. And you must be stopped.
May we all be safe to breathe in public.
May we be willing to see, and not look away from, the hate you are stoking.
May we draw strength from the truth.
May we hold one another close and not treat partings lightly.