When I wrote about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s spat with Rep. Dan Crenshaw yesterday over her reference to 9/11 as “something” I said this: “I’m not sure where Rep. Omar can take this from here, except maybe to accuse Rep. Crenshaw of racism or maybe Islamophobia.”
Turns out Rep. Omar did exactly that. Ed has a post on her reaction. What I didn’t predict is that she would also get some of her fellow congresspeople to help amplify the charge. This morning Rep. Rashida Tlaib appeared on MSNBC (where else?) to say this was all about racism. I’m going to transcribe the entire thing below but you’ll notice Rep. Tlaibe seems flustered and is flailing a bit. Her answer doesn’t make a lot of sense. Toward the middle, it doesn’t make any sense at all, but she’s being loud and forceful about it.
“Do you think she should have rethought her words?” the host asked.
“They do that all the time to us, especially women of color,” Tlaib replied. She continued, “They take our words out of context because they’re afraid because we speak truth, we speak truth to power. My sister Ilhan Omar, [what] she was talking about was uplifting people by supporting their civil liberties and civil rights. She has always, always condemned any…tragedy, especially as a person directly impacted by being a refugee herself. She sees what terrorism can do. She sees what violence can do to a whole country, to a whole people.
“Taking it out of context, this is just pure racist act by many of those—hateful acts by those because she does speak truth when it talks about different issues that they don’t disagree with. And I’m really outraged because as a person that has gotten direct death threats myself I know that her life is put in more danger.
“And I see her, my sister Ilhan Omar not just as a colleague but I see her as a mother of three trying to raise her children. I can’t imagine their lives without her. And the fact that these people are irresponsibly taking those words and endangering the life or Rep. Omar is immoral, is wrong, and it needs to be called out by many of my colleagues, not just myself. And saying they need to stop. Stop targeting her this way. It’s absolutely putting her life in danger.”
So that’s it then. I guess we can’t criticize Rep. Omar at all because doing so puts her life in danger. And look, I’m sure there are some nuts out there who might want to hurt her. There certainly was one who tried to kill Rep. Steve Scalise. There are crazy people out there on both sides of the aisle. But I don’t think that means we stop talking about what someone says. If that were the case, we couldn’t talk about anyone and certainly not Donald Trump who I’m confident gets far more death threats than Rep. Omar does.
The other obvious problem with this rant is that Rep. Omar wasn’t taken out of context. I posted the full video yesterday which you can view here, already cued up to this moment. There’s really no doubt what Omar said or what she meant. In fact, she didn’t even deny it yesterday she just claimed that paying attention to it represented a threat to her safety.
Also, she was, in fact, talking about civil rights and the point she was making was that Muslims shouldn’t feel afraid to speak up and “raise hell” or “make people uncomfortable.” And yet here she is having made people uncomfortable and her first reaction is to call everyone racist and claim they are trying to endanger her life so they better shut up. It’s as if she doesn’t understand that when you choose to raise hell (using your voice) some people who disagree might decide to do the same (using their voice). She wants to raise hell and then retreat to a safe space where criticism of her is not allowed. But that’s not how this works.
Omar wants to have her cake and eat it too but that’s not how free speech works. People get to criticize you, just as you criticize others. And in this case, what Omar said was dismissive of nearly 3,000 Americans who were murdered for being Americans. She deserves the criticism she’s getting.
"They do that all the time to us, especially women of color. They take our words out of context b/c they're afraid because we speak truth, we speak truth to power. … This is just pure racist act [sic]" pic.twitter.com/y1GO8pAvVG
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) April 11, 2019
Update: From AOC and Ed Krassenstein, here’s the claim this is about Islamophobia. It was entirely predictable that this was where this argument would go.