From Angela Davis to Ayanna Pressley, Black women leaders rallied in DC in defense of Omar—and called on Democrats do the same.
On April 30, over 100 Black women activists gathered in Washington, DC, to support Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar in the face of Islamophobic incitement from the Trump White House. Rallying under the banner “Black Women In Defense of Ilhan,” organizers included Angela Davis, Barbara Ransby, Black Lives Matter co-founders, and participants from around the country. Together they called for Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to censure President Trump for tweeting out a video of the 9/11 attacks, complete with flaming images of the Twin Towers, falsely accusing Omar of minimizing the attacks. The tweet was the latest incident in a cycle of incitement against Omar and spurred a spike in death threats targeting her.
Throughout the last few months, Omar has come repeatedly under fire for her comments criticizing America’s pro-Israel policies and the role of AIPAC in pushing US support of the occupation. She has also become a scapegoat for right wing commentators who have sought to turn her into a symbol of left-wing antisemitism, at a time when white nationalist violence against both Jewish and Muslim places of worship is on the rise.
The protest came as a moment of Black women’s unity in the face of Islamophobic misogynoir, with speakers such as Representative Ayanna Pressley contextualizing the attacks on Omar as part of a longstanding pattern of silencing of Black women’s voices. Speaking at the event, Omar described the attacks on herself as part of a broader context of white supremacy, including anti-Jewish violence like the attack on the Poway Synagogue, saying “We collectively must make sure that we are dismantling all systems of oppression.”
Ahead of the rally Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who helped organize the event but was unable to attend, spoke to The Nation about the critical significance of Black women showing up to support Ilhan Omar.
Rebecca Pierce: What are the goals you set out to accomplish with this event, and why were these demands so important?
Patrisse Cullors: I think one of the first things is that people need to understand that part of the mission of the Black Lives Matter Global Network is to protect Black women and girls, and that at the height of BLM we were labeled as terrorists and very few people came to our aid. Rep. Ilhan is an elected official, she was voted in. She has been treated terribly the entire time she has been in office by the right, and I think it is important that Black women stand up for her—and visibly stand up for her.
RP: Why do you think Ilhan is such a target not only for the far-right, but also some Democrats?
PC: It’s simple. She’s Black, she’s Muslim, she’s hijab-wearing. That is literally the image of fear that Trump has invoked in order to win over his base. She is a scapegoat for him and the right wing. I also think the Democratic Party doesn’t know what to do with her. They don’t know how to protect her, and they aren’t being the fierce advocates that we need them to be.
RP: One reason Ilhan has come under attack is her support for Palestinian rights, how does this fit into a larger context of attacks on Black leaders in solidarity with Palestine?
PC: I think there is a long history of Black people being in solidarity with Palestinian people. This isn’t in a vacuum. Rep. Ilhan’s support or my support or Marc Lamont Hill’s support or Angela Davis’s support [is part of] a long legacy of Black people and Palestinian people fighting for each other and being in solidarity with one another. And so, I think that the minute that Ilhan was open and transparent and not afraid to talk on behalf of Palestine, she really became a target of the right.
RP: Why is it so important to defend Palestine solidarity in Black organizing?
aPC: The first time I went to Palestine was in the winter of 2015 right after the Ferguson Uprising, and I was invited by the Dream Defenders delegation. I had studied a lot about Palestinian rights, I was not new to the issue of the Occupation, but nothing prepares you for that level of violence. For that level of, honestly, dissonance. Dissonance from Zionists in America. So, when I sat and had conversations with Palestinian people, especially Palestinian elders, one of the first things they said is “Black people and Palestinian people have a natural alliance.” I think part of that history, whether it was Malcolm X or other Black leaders that were thinking about self-determination, these are some of the themes that are at the intersections of Palestine and Black American people.
RP: Do you think that these kinds of coalitions are a threat to the status quo?
PC: Everybody knew you don’t talk about Palestine, especially in social justice spaces. That if you agreed with that you kind of kept it to yourself. I would say in the last five-to-seven years we have seen a significant shift when it comes to the cultural conversation about Palestine and Israel and that more and more young people, more and more white Jews, more and more folks of color are having a much more honest conversation about the occupation. That we don’t want our tax dollars going to Israel’s Apartheid country. So, we are in a position now, a cultural shift position, and I think Ilhan is in some ways the messenger of that.
RP: What do the attacks on Ilhan say about the fight against white supremacy in this moment where there is a threat not only on Black and brown people but also Jewish communities and other minorities?
PC: Ilhan has become the latest representation around how the right wing is establishing what is white nationalism. And I think for our movement, protecting Ilhan means we are fighting against white supremacy. We actually have to be better at that, at protecting her as a symbol really, at protecting the rights of Jewish people, at protecting the rights of communities of color, of women, of trans folks, of queer folks. This is that moment where we have the opportunity to really fight hard for everybody.
Rebecca PierceRebecca Pierce is a writer, activist, and documentary filmmaker. Her journalism has been featured in +972, Jewish Currents, The Jewish Daily Forward, The Nation, Mondoweiss, and Electronic Intifada.
By Jim Tankersley & Emily Baumgaertner New York Times
WASHINGTON — The United States census is so much more than just a head count. It is a snapshot of America that determines how congressional seats are apportioned, how state and federal dollars are distributed, where businesses choose to ship products and where they build new stores. To do all that properly, the count needs to be accurate.
The Commerce Department’s decision to restore a citizenship question to the census beginning in 2020 is prompting concerns about curtailing participation and possibly undercounting people living in the United States, particularly immigrants and minority groups who are expressing discomfort with answering questions from census workers.
Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, acknowledged concerns about decreased response rates in a memorandum released on Monday night. But he said asking about citizenship would enhance the results by helping calculate the percentage of the population eligible to vote.
An undercount of the population would have far-reaching implications. It could skew the data that are used to determine how many congressional representatives each state gets and their representation in state legislatures and local government bodies. It would shape how billions of dollars a year are allocated, including for schools and hospitals. It would undermine the integrity of a wide variety of economic data and other statistics that businesses, researchers and policymakers depend on to make decisions, including the numbers that underpin the forecasts for Social Security beneficiaries.
Here are several of the commercial, political and research efforts that depend on accurate
The Constitution requires the government to enumerate the number of people living in the United States every 10 years, and to use that data to apportion the seats in Congress among the states. The calculation is based on total resident population — which means citizens and noncitizens alike — and it generally shifts power between the states once a decade, in line with population and migration trends.
States including Texas, Florida, Colorado and Oregon are projected to gain seats after the 2020 numbers are in. Illinois, Ohio, New York and West Virginia are among the states expected to lose seats. An undercount could shift those projections.
Lawmakers also use census data to draw congressional district boundaries within states, an often-controversial process that can help decide partisan control of the House. Census data also underpin state legislative districts and local boundaries like City Councils and school boards.
The federal government bases a large amount of its spending decisions on census data. Researchers concluded last year that in the 2015 fiscal year, 132 government programs used information from the census to determine how to allocate more than $675 billion, much of it for programs that serve lower-income families, including Head Start, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college and reduced-price school lunch programs. Highway spending is also apportioned according to census data.
To sell products and services, companies large and small need good information on the location of potential customers and how much money they might have to spend. The census provides the highest-quality and most consistent information on such items, and businesses have come to depend on it to make critical choices.
Census data help companies decide where to locate distribution centers to best serve their customers, where to expand or locate new stores and where they have the best chance of seeing a high return on investment. That is why business groups have been particularly concerned about the integrity of that data.
“The 2020 census is used to help construct many other data products produced by the federal government,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who writes frequently on the importance of census data for policymakers and the private sector.
“Some of those products are heavily used by businesses when determining where to open new stores and expand operations, or even what items to put on their shelves. This affects retail businesses, for sure, but businesses in many other sectors as well,” he added.
Low response rates from any one demographic group would undermine the validity of various population-wide statistics and program planning.
Scientists use census data to understand the distribution of diseases and health concerns such as cancer and obesity across the United States population, including drilling down to race and ethnicity to identify health patterns across demographics. Public health officials then use the data to target their interventions in at-risk communities. Inaccurate census data could lead public health officials to invest in solving a problem that does not exist — or worse, to overlook one that does.
“It’s getting harder to conduct the census, due to a variety of factors, including increasing cultural & linguistic diversity, and distrust of the government,” said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist who directs the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. “The addition of the citizenship question will make the enumerators’ jobs even harder by heightening privacy concerns and reducing participation among immigrants, who may fear the information will be used to harm them or their families.”
An undercount in the census could also impact forecasts about Social Security payouts, which are already increasing as a share of the federal government’s revenue.
When Congress plans for the costs of the country’s Social Security needs, lawmakers rely upon demographic projection about the population’s future: the number of children expected to be born, the number of people expected to die, and the number of people expected to immigrate. If baseline data regarding the current population are inaccurate, future projections could be skewed, causing financial challenges down the line.