Feminist Hero Friday: Congresswoman Maxine Waters
by Abaki Beck
Ah, Inauguration Day. I had been hoping this day would never actually arrive, yet it has. Organizers, social workers, teachers, and grassroots political activists - every day individuals working for change and empowerment in their own communities - will no doubt continue to work effortlessly against Trumps policies and their implications. We must also hold our elected leaders accountable and continue to campaign for and elect those that best represent our needs. We need allies everywhere. This week, we celebrate one such leader: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who became a recent viral sensation after discussing why she wouldn’t be attending Trump’s inauguration - one of more than 45 Democratic Members of Congress who have committed to doing so.
This week, we celebrate Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who has represented California’s 43rd District (parts of Los Angeles) since 1992. Congresswoman Waters does not shy away from controversy. She took office shortly before the police beating of Rodney King and the following LA Riots. During the riots - in which 58 people died - she delivered supplies and demanded that emergency services provide support in the impacted neighborhoods. Noting the intersecting social, political, and economic causes of the LA riots, she said: "If you call it a riot it sounds like it was just a bunch of crazy people who went out and did bad things for no reason. I maintain it was somewhat understandable, if not acceptable.” Unlike many politicians, she became a voice of the disenfranchised by “focusing on justifying rather than condemning the violent reaction to the verdict.” (New York Times) Indeed, after finding out that she was not invited to a cabinet discussion of the riots by President Bush, she went to the office herself, demanding her voice be heard. Throughout her time in Congress, she has continued to advocate for justice, including founding the ‘Out of Iraq’ Congressional Caucus and developing the Minority AIDS Initiative.
In an interview with Tamron Hall of MSNBC on Wednesday, Congresswoman Waters cited many concerns with Trump, including his discussion of sexually assaulting women, mocking a disabled reporter, his disparagement of minority groups, and his serial lying.
Regarding why she chose not to attend the inauguration she said:
“After I discovered who Trump is and how he conducted himself, I did not plan to go to the Inauguration...and certainly the inauguration is a way of welcoming in someone to the presidency, and of honoring them, and of respecting them. I do not honor him. I do not respect him. I don’t want to be involved with him.”
We should not need to mince our words to be heard. We should not be forced to respect and recognize as legitimate a President who has mocked us, threatened us, and belittled us throughout his campaign. The words of people of color - women and trans folks of color in particular - are too often delegitimized and ignored because of the “tone” we use. We are called angry, biased, and too emotional. Like Congresswoman Waters, we must continue to be involved in challenging Trump’s policies and expressing so in any way we chose.