“The bourgeoisie is fearful of the militancy of the Negro woman, and for good reason. The capitalists know, far better than many progressives seem to know, that once Negro women begin to take action, the militancy of the whole Negro people, and thus of the anti-imperialist coalition, is greatly enhanced.”
Claudia Jones, 1949.
There are few things this godforsaken country hates than Black women. Since Europeans began shipping stolen people from Africa to their stolen lands in the Western Hemisphere, they and their settler descendants have subjected Black women in America to every form of terror, dehumanization, and humiliation imaginable. Burdened by the “triple jeopardy” of race, gender, and more often than not, class, just about every day for a Black girl or woman in the heart of capitalist empire and white supremacy is an uphill battle, a fight not only to live, but to survive.
Despite this-in part because of this-Black women have never stopped fighting back. They have never stopped living, creating, loving, thinking, or resisting. Like Black people and other oppressed nations people as a whole, they have stood at the forefront of militant, radical, revolutionary theory and action. Their humanity is unbroken. To the managers and supporters of this capitalist, imperialist, racist, anti-people system, Black women who challenge their oppression and the oppression of the masses worldwide, who speak up and act not only for themselves, but for millions of others, are some of the most dangerous beings alive. Since her election to Congress last fall, Representative Ilhan Omar has quickly established herself as one of these people.
While the Democratic leadership may have hoped for a black Bernie in a hijab, a faux-radical whose progressive politics end at the U.S. border, she is far more than that. Whether she’s piercing Throwback Thursday War Criminal Elliot Abrams’ bullshit on camera, bucking the bipartisan imperialist consensus on Venezuela, taking the Saudis to task, or most notably and egregiously, pointing out simple truths about the colonial apartheid state of Israel and the suffering of Palestinians, she’s shown a level of political consistency that puts her miles above the rest of the cowards and crooks that fill the Capitol. For the unforgivable crime of being a Black Muslim woman willing to stand by her principles, and a refugee who rejects passive victimhood, she has been subjected to an escalating campaign of despicable attacks by Republicans and Democrats alike, many of whom barely register a pulse when actual anti-Semites murder Jews. High on their own supply of anti-Blackness, Islamophobia and sexism, the U.S. ruling class has worked itself into contortions that would put any Circus De Soleil acrobat to shame. While Omar has ridden out the worst of the storm for the time being, thanks in part to an outpouring of support from decent people all across the country and her own commendable strength, she’s still receiving death threats, and was on the hit list of a heavily armed white supremacist terrorist. This was the first major salvo in the campaign against her, but it will not be the last.
Now, it should go without saying that communists worth their salt don’t delude themselves or others with personality cults, least of all for bourgeois politicians. Ilhan Omar’s election may have been one of the best things to happen in Washington since the British nearly burned it to the ground, but we shouldn’t waste time believing that any single person, even one with a refreshing independence and a growing public platform, can or will save us. Ilhan Omar could leave the Democratic Party and declare her belief in Marxism and international revolutionary struggle tomorrow, and the only thing that would change is how fast they’d lock her up or kill her. For the time being, she is a bright light restricted by a party and system that will do everything in their power to crush her or make her sell out.
But the fact that Representative Omar is a member of a bourgeois, racist, imperialist party and government is irrelevant. The fact that her politics are not out-and-out revolutionary (yet?) is irrelevant. That may matter to backwards-white leftists who refuse anything outside of their pure little circles, but the jeering mobs itching to throw a rope around her neck or put a bullet in her skull don’t care about any of that. They don’t draw nuanced political distinctions or give a damn about “ respectability.” After all, Martin Luther King Jr. was an immaculately dressed Baptist minister who preached nonviolence for most of his life, but for most of white Amerika, he was a Red rabble-rouser who got what was coming to him. Hell, Obama was one of the most skilled, dedicated general managers of empire to ever reach the Oval Office, a man who bent over backwards to be non-threatening to white eyes, and that didn’t stop them many of them seeing him as another uppity Negro.
What matters is that Ilhan Omar is a courageous, outspoken Black Muslim woman who refuses to be a pawn or stage prop, who “doesn’t know her place.” Like Claudia Jones and countless other progressive, militant, revolutionary Black women, she has exposed the ugly face of the US ruling class, and earned a target on her back for her trouble. For these reasons and more, an attack on her must be treated as an attack on all of us.