U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., stepped firmly into the controversy that arose after Stephanie Wilkinson, a coowner of a Red Robbin restaurant in Lexington, Va., asked White House spokeswoman Sara Huckabee Sanders to leave her establishment. Wilkinson told The Washington Post she informed Sanders that her restaurant has “certain standards” to uphold, “such as honesty and compassion.”
The protest had already spread, with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen being forced to leave a Mexican restaurant in Washington – unaware, apparently, of the irony of her heading an agency that demonizes Mexicans but eating at a Mexican restaurant.
Incensed at the dystopian horror of the United States government forcibly separating children from their refugee parents, Waters went a step further, warning administration officials that more is to come. Speaking at a “Families Belong Together” rally in Los Angeles, Waters declared, “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. If you see anybody from [the Trump] Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere. We want history to record that we stood up, that we pushed back, that we fought and that we did not consider ourselves victims of this president.”
President Donald Trump quickly reacted by tweeting that Waters was “an extraordinarily low IQ person … somewhere in the mid-60s,” and telling her, “Be careful what you wish for Max!” He followed up with a series of vituperations that only he can muster and some supporters verbally attacked Waters. She reported receiving hate mail and death threats serious enough to force her to call off planned appearances in Alabama and Texas. But she was defiant.
“I know that there are those who are talking about censuring me, talking about kicking me out of Congress, talking about shooting me, talking about hanging me,” she said. “All I have to say is this: If you shoot me, you’d better shoot straight. There’s nothing like a wounded animal. I am prepared to make whatever sacrifices need to be made”
She had a message for Trump: “We’re not afraid of you. You should be ashamed. … How dare you take the babies from their mothers’ arms. Donald Trump, we are sick and tired of you. We have no fear, you will not intimidate us. … The Constitution of the United States of America gives us the right to protest, and protest we will.”
Meanwhile, instead of rallying to Waters’ defense, the two top Democrats in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, both white, showed they are still living in the fantasy civility world. Speaking on the Senate floor, Schumer described her comments as a call for the “harassment of political opponents” and “not American.” Pelosi tweeted, in part, “Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable.”
That tone-deafness, in turn, spurred nearly 200 black women leaders to send an angry letter to Schumer and Pelosi on July 3, expressing “our profound indignation and deep disappointment over your recent failure to protect Congresswoman Waters from unwarranted attacks from the Trump Administration and others in the [Republican party]. That failure was further compounded by your decision to unfairly deride her as being ‘uncivil’ and ‘un-American’.”
The women warned, “Disparaging or failing to support Congresswoman Waters is an affront to her and Black women across the country and telegraphs a message that the Democratic Party can ill afford: that it does not respect Black women’s leadership and political power and discounts the impact of Black women and millennial voters.”
Waters is now among a long list of distinguished black women, going all the way back to Harriett Tubman, who have stood up fearlessly for what is right. Most recently, Therese Patricia Okoumou scaled the skirts of the Statue of Liberty on July 4 as part of a group also protesting Trump’s unconscionable immigration policy. “I had thought, ‘It’s the Statue of Liberty, it’s the Fourth of July and there are children in cages,” she explained to the Guardian. Th Congolese native and American citize said she made sure to carry her passpor with her. She was taken into custody i handcuffs and charged with three federa misdemeanors and her president de scribed her in a tweet as “a clown.”
But to Michael Harriot, a writer for Th Root, Okoumou “was liberty enlightenin the world … just another black woma shoving a mirror in America’s face, forcin this country to see itself as it truly is… Black women have always been America statues of Liberty.” He got that right.