This is who we are. This is not who we have to be.

This morning, I find myself angry again at everyone who voted for Donald Trump. Illan Omar was born in Somalia. Her mother died when she was two, and shortly after, her family fled to escape war. She spent four years living in a refugee camp. She first arrived in this country in 1992, which means she’s been here almost as long as I have. And despite all of that hardship, in the last election she became the first Somali-American, the first naturalized citizen from Africa, and the first non-white woman elected from Minnesota, and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. And if none of this were true—if she were just a refugee who came here and led a simple, quiet life—if she were just a Black or Muslim American living on your street—she would still be a human, and still be just as deserving of our love and acceptance. 

And last night, egged on by a racist, fear-mongering leader, a rally full of people chanted “send her back.” And let’s be clear: this wasn’t about Illan Omar not being born here. This was racism and Islamophobia, and it was inspired by the person at the podium, and he had the power to stop it and he didn’t. 

And when you stand at a podium and you let 8,000 people chant that type of hate in your name at your rally, you’re not just talking about Illan Omar. You’re sending a very clear message to immigrants and children of immigrants and minorities in general that they are not welcome here. You’re saying anyone who doesn’t look like you or think like you or love like you or worship like you does not have a place in this country. You’re making them afraid, and you’re doing it on purpose. And when you let it happen, when you endorse it with your checkbooks and at the ballot box, I can’t tell the difference between you and the people who put on white hoods and burn crosses on the lawns of their Black neighbors. 

I’m not going to stand here and say we’re better than this. We are not. This is who we are. But I do think we have the potential to be better than this. And it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of hard conversations and we’re not going to come out unscathed. But I hope we are brave enough to do the work, to have the difficult conversations. I hope when we’re afraid, we remember a little girl who lost her mom and her country and found a new place to call home and grew up to be a woman who fought for the least of us even while we yelled that she did not belong. I hope we can all be even one tenth as brave as her, and even one tenth as patriotic.

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