Congressman shows we still have a long way to go on race

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From the Duchess of Sussex and actress Meghan Markle to former Harvard President Claudine Gay to Vice President Kamala Harris, Black women have been the target of severe attacks in recent months.

The most recent example (and there have indeed been many as of late) are the distasteful comments made by Republican Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas toward his colleague, Democrat Cori Bush of Missouri.

Nehls, an acid-tongued conservative, took it upon his shamelessly arrogant self to refer to representative Bush as “loud” and “mouthy.” Nehls also referred to Buch’s husband, a man who served as a member of the U.S. military, as a “thug.” The incident comes after Bush defended her use of campaign funds to hire her husband for security services, given the fact that she, like several other members of color in Congress, have been the targets of death threats.

“She doesn’t even support the police. But the idea of paying her thug money to try to help protect her?” Nehls said. “What if she wouldn’t be so loud all the time maybe she wouldn’t be getting threats… When you are out there talking the way she does, I’m not surprised that people are probably pretty upset because she’s a pretty radical person.”

Nehls all but said “she needs to know her place.” There’s also the irony of Nehls calling Bush “loud” while his own party is home to outspoken loudmouths like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Chip Roy.

It is hardly news that obnoxious politicians like Nehls are quick to spout irresponsible and largely nonsensical rhetoric, often laced with racial stereotypes and tropes. The larger issue here is that his comments represent a long, disturbing history of people denouncing and denigrating Black women.

From president Trump on down, for some reason, it seems that humiliating and degrading Black women has become a trend within the Republican Party, and there doesn’t appear to be a cease fire anywhere on the horizon.

Public disregard and disrespect for Black women has always been problematic. Recall former radio host Don Imus, who referred to members of Rutgers women’s basketball team – college students – as “nappy-headed hos” and “jigaboos.” Black women are frequently defined as “angry” or “uppity,” and former President Ronald Reagan made the term “welfare queen” a campaign issue.

The relentless effects of such demeaning and disrespectful behavior toward Black women in our society sends a searing, disturbing and detrimental message to the larger society. It’s beyond time men of all races to confront the sexist, racial and cultural stereotypes that remain deeply ingrained across our society.

To paraphrase Peter Finch’s Howard Beale, it’s time for Black women to stand up and declare they’re “mad as hell” and won’t tolerate such a continual onslaught of debasement, disregard and disrespect. Society at large must reexamine its negative preconceived notions of Black womanhood, and the media must do its part in helping to dispel dangerously pernicious myths associated with women of color.

Such a conscientious task may not be easy to accomplish. After all, old habits are hard to break. But it’s a crucial and mandatory step to take, especially while loud and ignorant men roam freely through the halls of Congress.

Copyright 2024 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.