More than two years into Mr. Trump's presidency, we're more than used to his antics. Unfortunately, we've become numb to them. The list of lies is too long. One could spend hours and days listing the dangerous rhetoric and actions he's committed to inflame our divisions, attack our democracy and bring the country into authoritarianism. On the rare occasion I watch mainstream news, anchors have to cut guests off from listing too much, as they have limited time on-air.
We know Mr. Trump's modus operandi. He thrives off division and chaos. His base will defend him no matter what, and he knows it.
What continues to fascinate and horrify me is the response he inspires in others. As Black people, we know all too well — and tried to warn everybody else — that Mr. Trump did not create racism, he merely made it acceptable. In doing so, he proved that racism is not something in our heads or something we can't let go. He exposed and continues to expose the ugly truth about the country we live in.
Mr. Trump targets anyone who opposes him, period. But he has a special disdain for women of color who defy him and his ideology, and right now, his target is Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Recently, Mr. Trump tweeted and pinned a video clip of Representative Omar talking about the September 11 attacks mixed with footage of the World Trade Center towers being hit with hijacked airplanes under the text, "NEVER FORGET!" He did this a day after the New York Post released a cover story to the same effect. Both of these things came barely a week after a man was arrested by the FBI for threatening to kill Representative Omar, calling her a "(expletive) terrorist" and saying he wants to "put a bullet in her (expletive) skull." Representative Omar has come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats for her criticism of the close relationship between the United States and Israel, and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. The backlash over her comments led the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to pass a resolution against all forms of hatred, but only anti-Semitism was addressed in the original version until outrage from progressives, especially Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, forced the change.
Mr. Trump's base going along with whatever he says or does is no surprise. And to my chagrin, mainstream news media mostly skirt around the fact that the primary motive for those who support Mr. Trump is, in fact, racism. But what is most disturbing is how Democratic lawmakers and leadership alike continue to stay silent when Mr. Trump attacks Representative Omar, even as he engages in the same rhetoric that Representative Omar is falsely accused of.
This isn't about personally agreeing with Representative Omar, although I am prepared to defend her against accusations of anti-Semitism. Representative Omar's life is being targeted because she is a Black Muslim woman and is defying the status quo of power. And since this country has been controlled by white men for our entire history, Representative Omar, along with other young female lawmakers of color, are held to a double standard because they are female lawmakers of color and they are speaking uncomfortable truths about the state of the country.
As a woman of color myself, Mr. Trump's incitement of hatred and violence against Representative Omar is disturbing, but the lack of condemnation by Democrats, including those who are running for president in 2020, shows how pervasive white supremacy is in this country — even among those who claim they stand against it.
To their credit, some have defended her:
Ilhan Omar is a leader with strength and courage. She won't back down to Trump's racism and hate, and neither will we. The disgusting and dangerous attacks against her must end.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 13, 2019
The President is inciting violence against a sitting Congresswoman—and an entire group of Americans based on their religion. It's disgusting. It's shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 13, 2019
Someone has already been charged with a serious threat on Congresswoman Omar’s life. The video the President chose to send out today will only incite more hate. You can disagree with her words—as I have done before—but this video is wrong. Enough.— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) April 13, 2019
Here is the video of @BetoORourke in SC, where he condemns Trump’s @IlhanMN tweet. “This is an incitement to violence against congresswoman Omar” pic.twitter.com/Sku8iERfh5— Zachary 🇪🇺 (@zatchry) April 13, 2019
But as of this writing, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden and others have not bother to defend Omar. Even former President Barack Obama has remained silent.
It is too early to pick and choose a candidate to support in the primaries, but I'm making an exception here. I cannot in good conscience vote for a Democratic presidential candidate who does not unequivocally defend Representative Ilhan Omar from the racist, sexist and Islamophobic attacks from the current occupant of the White House. I cannot vote for a Democratic presidential candidate who does not call these attacks out for the dangerous incitement to violence against a sitting member of Congress that they are.
To be clear: the Democratic leadership has put up mostly feeble protests against Mr. Trump's racism thus far. Mere tweets are the least that should be done here. But in not saying as much as a word to defend Representative Omar when her life is literally on the line, the Democratic party and leadership is showing that white supremacy is not confined to the Republican party, but that it is alive and well in the party that is supposed to be the viable party; the party charged with opposing Mr. Trump and the dark path he is taking the country down; the party that claims to stand in opposition to racism and sexism, and for diversity, inclusion and equality. The Democratic party is not not directly showing this, but through their actions of standing by and remaining silent while violent white supremacy threatens a woman's life, they are saying more than words ever can.