“Welcome home Ilhan!”

Dear President Trump,

There is a minute or so clip that circulated on Twitter and in the mainstream media of Ilhan Omar’s recent arrival at the airport in Minneapolis. The images are blurry and the filming is pretty amateur with lots of herky-jerky movements, as though the person filming is being jostled the entire time, which may well have been the case since it was crowded in that airport reception space. But it wasn’t the visuals that were compelling, it was the audio. Over and over the crowd chanted “Welcome home Ilhan. Welcome home Ilhan.” They weren’t saying “Welcome back Ilhan.” They were specifically welcoming her home, where she belongs. They were welcoming her home to the place in the world where she is loved and appreciated, probably the very most, because it is, after all, her home. Over and over and over the three words were chanted loudly and insistently.

There were men in the crowd, for sure, but I had to check the video images to be certain because the audio sounded as though it was only women welcoming her home. Despite a few seconds of internal judgment along the lines of “of course it’s women welcoming her home,” I was actually glad to see that it was a mix of women and men. I was also glad to see that there was a mix of white people and people of color and young people and old people. We need all sorts of us standing together, reminding each other that we belong and that we are home.

I don’t know whether it will really help penetrate the miasma suffocating your supporters who have fallen victim to your gaslighting and their own cognitive dissonance-quelling feats (as opposed to the ones who embrace your racism and feel affirmed by it) to see all different kinds of people welcoming Omar, AOC, Talib, and Pressley to their respective homes. That’s a hard one to gauge. More importantly, though, such audiovisuals send a powerful message to the Squad and to everyone who identifies with them that hate isn’t going to win, that they have allies who are willing to step up and speak out in support of them, who affirm their welcome and their places amongst us all.

I’m not in any of the minds of those who were welcoming Omar home (obviously), but I think most were likely giving her the straight up message that they were happy to see her coming home, that it wasn’t about any assumed largesse on their part (meaning the white people’s part that is) or as though they were deigning to share their home with her. Rather, my guess is that most feel Minneapolis is just as much her home as it is theirs. That’s my hope anyway. I imagine the reality is that there were people in the crowd all along that continuum since change is hard for most of us mere mortals.

But you know, I’ll take a whole bunch of people who are trying hard to make space in their hearts to accept that those don’t look like them do belong and are making homes along side theirs. Some may fall short, and that’s ok. Working at being open and radically welcoming, even if it’s not quite perfect, is still what we need to heal this broken, scary mess we’ve made.

May we be safe to claim our homes, to be in our homes.
May we be willing to affirm one another’s rights to our homes.
May we be healthy and strong through this nasty storm.
May you not start (or even threaten) war.

Tracy Simpson

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