The American electorate seems to be more divided than ever. It is becoming more and more apparent that if you are a woman, lgbtqi+, Muslim, or not white, your voice is not being valued. Given all of this, I want to highlight two women who are refusing to be silent or intimidated within the American political arena.
Born in Somali, Ilhan lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years during the Somali civil war before her family were given the chance to move to Minnesota, USA, when she was aged 13.
After several years of community organising, in 2016 Ilhan faced a seemingly impossible task – to push through self doubt and take the leap to run for State Representative in Minnesota’s Senate District 60B. Up against incumbent Phyllis Kahn, and a male representative of the Somali community, Mohamud Noor, Ilhan ran on a platform focused on:
“cancelling student debt, banning private prisons, increasing the number of refugees admitted to the U.S., and cutting funding for “perpetual war and military aggression.” She supports passing a national bill of rights for renters, the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act and automatically registering every eighteen-year-old to vote.”
After she won the campaign, allegations surfaced around her marriage history (based on nothing more than a right-wing blog). The claims were found to be just as baseless as those made against Barack Obama and his birth certificate.
Are these sorts of media tactics new? No. Did they stop Ilhan from taking office? No.
In many ways, Ilhan is the embodiment of the groups President Trump wants to silence. In November, Ilhan will become the first refugee from Africa, the first Somali-American, one of the first two Muslim-American women and the first woman in a hijab to be elected to the United States Congress – this is progress.
Finally, the mainstream media has begrudgingly accepted that Alexandria deserves column space. Why? Because she won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district! And because she is a woman, Democratic Socialist, first generation American, Spanish speaking girl from the Bronx who beat the man tipped to be the new head of the Democratic party.
Alexandria has had a life many, many others in America have had – born to Puerto Rican mother and a father from the Bronx, she has worked the 18-hour double jobs. So if she is the poster child for what can be achieved with the ‘American Dream’, why do so many from both political sides fear her rise through the ranks?
The key points from her platform are: Medicare for all, fully funded public schools and universities, universal jobs guarantee, housing as a human right, justice-system reform, immigration reform, “new green deal” to combat climate change, and campaign-finance reform.
Am I worried Alexandria will bow to the pressures of 21st century politics or give in to pressure from this administration? No.
“Well you know, the president is from Queens, and with all due respect, half of my constituents are from Queens. I don’t think he knows how to deal with a girl from the Bronx.” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
In a climate where lunatics are running around New York threatening to call immigration on people because they are speaking Spanish, I think its vital to have a representative like Alexandria. In a climate where executive order number 13769 (the travel ban) is still being enforced, I think it is essential to have a representative like Ilhan.
Of course, I don’t want to get lost in identity politics, these women represent more than these two issues. And clearly, these issues are not going to be solely fought and won by individuals – they need help.
So get involved! If you feel an issue is worth fighting for please get involved in local politics and register to vote in the mid-term elections.
I’m sure no one needs reminding, but here are some examples of recent action by the current administration:
- children forced to represent themselves, alone and without a lawyer, in court to fight for their right to remain in the United States
- funding for abortion clinics massively cut
- an attempt to ban transgender people from the military