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“Our Very Existence Is the Resistance”: An Hour w/ AOC, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib & Ilhan Omar

StoryFebruary 10, 2020
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On Friday, Democracy Now! co-host Nermeen Shaikh sat down for a rare joint interview with the Squad, the group of four freshmen Democratic congresswomen who have taken Capitol Hill by storm: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Omar and Tlaib are the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Omar is a former refugee from Somalia, and Tlaib is the first female Palestinian-American member of Congress. Ayanna Pressley is the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. Ocasio-Cortez was just 29 years old when she took office last year, making her the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress. Born to a mother from Puerto Rico and a father from the South Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez — or AOC — has emerged as one of the most popular lawmakers in the country. Last week, Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley boycotted President Trump’s State of the Union address, Tlaib walked out during the speech, and Omar stayed for the speech, saying, “My presence tonight is resistance.” Nermeen Shaikh spoke with the four politicians at an event organized by The Rising Majority at Howard University.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a Democracy Now! special, a rare joint interview with the Squad. That’s the group of four freshwomen Democratic congresswomen who have taken Capitol Hill by storm: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Ilhan Omar is a former refugee from Somalia. Tlaib is the first female Palestinian-American member of Congress. Ayanna Pressley is the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was just 29 years old when she took office last year, making her the youngest woman to serve in Congress. Born to a mother from Puerto Rico and father from the South Bronx, AOC has quickly become one of the most popular lawmakers in the country.

All four members of the Squad have been active on the presidential campaign trail. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Omar have been campaigning for Bernie Sanders. Ayanna Pressley has backed Elizabeth Warren.

Last week, Congresswomen Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley boycotted President Trump’s State of the Union. Rashida Tlaib walked out during the speech. Ilhan Omar stayed, saying, quote, “My presence tonight is resistance.”

Well, on Friday, Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh sat down with all four members of the Squad at Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., at an event organized by The Rising Majority.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: It’s a great pleasure and honor to be here with the Squad. And on behalf of The Rising Majority and also Democracy Now!, I’d like to thank you all and give you a warm welcome. So, we’re speaking today following an absolutely extraordinary week in American politics with Trump presenting his State of the Union address just before his impeachment trial concluded with the Senate acquitting him. So I want to ask each of you about your response to the Senate vote, but also the decision that each of you took individually about attending his third, and possibly last, State of the Union — State of the Union address. So, Congressmember Omar, if you could begin?

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Oh, you got to choose me?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I got to choose you. You actually attended the State of the Union address, and you said it was an act of resistance.

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Well, good afternoon, everyone, first. It’s wonderful to be here and to have this opportunity to share the stage with my sisters in the struggle.

I made the decision to attend, one, because I represent 708,000 constituents, and I felt that it was important not to only be present on their behalf, but also to be present and visibly present on behalf of many of the marginalized identities that I represent, that are constantly being attacked by this president. I felt like being in that room, showing him that no matter how much he decides to speak about us in the most hateful ways, we are resilient, we are present, and we will not be disregarded. And I felt like I was part of a movement of people who have made the decision to send me to Congress to actually be a counternarrative to his existence in the White House, and I needed to be present for them.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Congressmember Tlaib?

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: You know, I think it was a huge struggle for me, because I don’t think people realize it’s worse when you’re actually there versus what you — no, it really is. And actually, there was moments of triggering, and I kept holding your hand, and we intentionally sat next to each other to support each other. But I remember talking to Sister Ilhan, and I was at the airport on my way to D.C., and I said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to, you know, not be there, kind of in his face, like I’m not going anywhere, you’re going somewhere.” And for me, at that moment, I said to her, “But also, I don’t know about wearing white, because, I mean, the suffrage movement didn’t always — it didn’t include the brown, black women.” And so, it was hard for me. So, I remember, Ilhan is like, “Well, wear something else.” I was like, “Ooh, I’m going to wear a Palestinian thobe.” And so, I love that.

And then, when I went — we went to go celebrate Ayanna’s birthday in her office, and I think it was Sarah and her team, her chief — I was like, “I don’t want — like, I’m struggling.” And she’s the one who said that Ayanna said there is no right or wrong way to protest. And I think at that moment I was like, “I’m going to support anybody that wants to be there, doesn’t want to be there.” But it is kind of a big, “Mmm, I’m not going anywhere, I’m right here,” and, you know, just even being there and not standing up in moments where he was enabling white supremacy and all of those moments.

But again, I couldn’t sit through some of it, and we ended up leaving, especially when they just went just full-out applause when they put that medal around Rush. And then — I know. I know. Do you know there was a 97-year-old man who was a guest of another colleague, who has been working really hard to try to get the Medal of Freedom for this man, who survived Nazi Germany? And he invented something to do with solar, profound accomplishments, profound strength, things that we need to be celebrating in our country. And he watched in the gallery to see somebody like that get the Medal of Freedom, when he’s sitting there, asking — you know, when he’s sitting there, just like, “I’ve done all these things in my life. I’ve survived all this.” And he did it from — you know, in this beautiful, gracious way, even after all that he’s been through. So, it was a very difficult time, I think, for me even being there. But, yeah, at one moment, she’s like, “You ready?” I was like, “Yeah, girl. Let’s go.” So we got out of there. But, yeah, I think it’s so much worse in person.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And Congressmember Ocasio-Cortez?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yeah, you know, like —

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You boycotted.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: You boycotted. You didn’t go.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, Ayanna and I both decided not to attend. And like Rashida said and as Ayanna says, there’s no right or wrong way to protest. And so, whether we attended or whether we didn’t attend, all of us showed up in that same spirit of resistance to a culture of white supremacy into the concentration of power, the authoritarianism of this administration.

Personally, I didn’t want to attend, because I was really wrestling between these things. But what I really saw in this moment was the president trying to use state ceremony and state power to legitimize the illegitimate. And we all have this question of, like, how do we undercut that, and whether it’s showing up and looking at him in the eye as the very thing that he detests as being that resistance, and be like, “Yeah, I’m here. You’re going to have to deal with the fact that voting members of Congress have power in the United States,” or to decide to sit out and to say, “I don’t want my presence to be here.” And also part of resistance is protecting yourself sometimes and protecting your space. And I went last year. He’s not all that. And —

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Tell them, Alex.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Much less impressive in person than on television, as well. And I just didn’t want to sit through that, you know? Ultimately, we knew what was going to come. We knew it was going to be racist, Islamophobic, classist, you know, history-denying. I just didn’t feel like spending my evening legitimizing that or entertaining it. But again, there’s no wrong way to protest. And for me, that’s kind of how — that’s where I sat with it. But it was a struggle, because do you choose to be in that space, or do you choose not to be in that space? Either way, you’re doing it in the same spirit, and you’re doing it with the same rationale and intention.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And Congressmember Pressley?

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY: Well, similarly to — first, I just want to say that when I arrived at the decision and had wrestled with it, like all my sisters in service and in the struggle up here, but, ultimately, it’s like, one, our very existence is the resistance. You know, secondly, the resistance is also about the fact that we occupy these congressional seats — forget about a seat on the House floor. And then, finally, I didn’t need to go there to know how he feels about me and our folk. It was a sham of a State of the Union, following the sham of a trial. The occupant of this White House has contempt for the American people, for the role of Congress as a coequal branch, as checks and balance, contempt for our Constitution. And so it was a sham of a State of the Union to me.

And then, the other thing is that I didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to once again coopt our imagery and to weaponize it. So, I could go there and raise a eyebrow and mean mug and do that. And I did not want them to take that and make it into memes. And, you know, I already know how he feels about me and our folk, and I didn’t want anyone speculating about how I felt. I wanted to control my own narrative, my own image, and which is why I did do, have the honor of delivering, the Working Families Party response, because we already know the state of the union. It’s in complete chaos and disarray. I wanted to speak to the state of the movement, which is strong as hell. So…

But I do also just want to underscore that, again, however our dissent shows up, the fact is we are dissenting in a way that is authentic to us. We are not a monolith. We amplify and support each other, however we choose to show up in the resistance. And I was so — I couldn’t believe the folks that were saying, “You’re not going to the State of the Union. That is your job. We want our money back. Because if I didn’t show up to work, I would be docked pay.” Well, talk to the Senate, because they haven’t been doing their job this whole Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmembers Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, interviewed by Democracy Now!'s Nermeen Shaikh. We'll continue with the interview in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: “What About Your Friends” by TLC. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to our rare joint interview with the Squad: Congresswomen Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh spoke to them on Friday at Howard Law School at an event organized by The Rising Majority.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Your very presence constitutes a form of resistance and of protest. And that’s one of the most remarkable things about your entry into Congress. I mean, it’s a transformative moment in American politics, because suddenly the social justice activism and the resistance that you all represent moved from outside the corridors of power to the very center of state power. So, if you could talk a little about how you think that movement has altered the resistance, and also its effects? I’m afraid I’ll begin with you again, Congressmember Omar.

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Can we not choose who goes first? I think, for many of us, you know, 2016 was going to be an election year where we were going to decide what kind of country we were going to be. It was very clear that on one side there was someone running for president who presented an extreme danger, not only to our democracy, but to the very lives of the American people. And I was running for the first time for state rep in my home state, and I remember, on election night, we stayed a little too long, after my results came in and we celebrated, to unfortunately learn what the state of our country was going to be. And I remember saying to the young people, who are in this room, some of them, that I could not believe that the hateful message he was delivering found partners in the hearts of so many Americans to be able to now become successful in the election. And I know that at that moment, really, for many of us, there was a decision that we had to make, a decision on whether to take and receive everything that was going to happen, or resist, restore and reimagine what could be possible. And so, our presence, really, and our elections were not only to resist the harmful policies that are coming from this administration and that have now become the norm, but it’s to restore hope. It’s to restore American values. It’s to restore generations of what could have been possible and to reimagine the America that we all know we deserve.

And so, I am, you know, quite excited, actually, about the kind of opportunities we have been presented because of the current challenges we have. You know, as someone who’s had a very challenging life, I always find an opportunity in every challenge. And I know that at this moment, we have had an opportunity to see every — every broken system reveal itself. We have had an opportunity for people to recognize what they are not only losing, but what they could gain. We have had an opportunity to allow for the racists and the bigots to fully tell on themselves. And we have had an opportunity for people who have never really imagined themselves fully powerful in the corridors of power to recognize that they cannot be muzzled, intimidated and silenced, that we are not ever going to be dismissed unless we allow ourselves to be dismissed.

And I think the shock that our presence really has brought is that for too long people have gotten used to having mediocre white men show up and think they own the day, without anybody ever questioning their credentials, their qualifications and their vision for a broken America. And for the first time you have women, who should be apologetic, who should feel small, who might visibly be small, who come in and know their place, understand their power, fully execute their vision and never, never really look shaken by the insecurities that many who thought they were powerful feel now that their power is challenged. And so, for me, I feel like, you know, people are often wondering, like, “If you’ve got all of these challenges, Ilhan, how do you still continue? Or why do you all feel like you thrive in your controversies?” And it’s because we don’t live in controversy. We live in constant struggle for the truth, and we live in constant struggle in remaking America in its image of freedom and liberty for all, not the image of the past, but the image of what the future of America should look like.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Whoever feels inspired to respond, please do.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think Ilhan brought up an excellent point, which is the reaction, either way, I think, to each of our respective elections. I don’t think it is a coincidence or an accident that we are descendants of untold stories in the United States and in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: To be a daughter of a colonized people in Puerto Rico, to be descendants of people who were placed in bondage by the powerful in the United States, to be a Palestinian woman, to be a child who rose from the ravages of war, we tell stories and truths that are uncomfortable. And our very existence is a descendence of discomfort or uncomfortable stories that — or, rather, they’re uncomfortable to be told today. There is so much effort put in to not tell these stories. And now we’ve got — now we’ve been elected on a mandate to tell this truth. And that creates a reaction. And it is either intensely liberating, if this story in any way is part of your story or a story that you want to be told out of allyship, or it is incredibly uncomfortable, because perhaps it forces some folks to hold up a mirror they don’t want. And I think that is a big part of the energy.

But to the question of what’s it like to kind of cross that threshold, when you’re used to being on the outside, having to speak loudly so that anyone will hear your voice, to crossing that threshold into the inside, it’s — I think it’s a challenging balance, because when you’re inside, the word is just always “compromise,” and you have to decide what is a just compromise and what is compromising your identity, who you are and the very essence of your being. And that, you know, I think it’s not just questions that we have to navigate individually, but questions that we have to navigate as a movement, because we’re not used to winning in this way. And now we have a power that is somewhat novel electorally, and we have to learn how to wield that. And that’s where accountability from the outside is the most important, because you all help show us the way.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Rashida Tlaib.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Look, what is even more incredible about all of us is just we are unapologetically ourselves. And we’re just — one of the things, as growing up in Detroit, which is the most beautiful, blackest city in the country, is we birth movements. And there’s this new era of social justice movement about, “Yeah, we’re going to organize in the streets.” And let me tell you, I mean, I grew up hearing people like Grace Lee Boggs and all, everybody, that said, “Don’t wait for somebody to introduce things in the halls of Congress or wait ’til the White House wakes up. We transform our country by movement work outside of the halls of Congress and in the White House.” And so, believe in that, because that’s exactly what we’ve done.

I mean, what’s incredible about my sisters up here and all of us is, I mean, we ran not one dime of corporate dollars. Like, we ran with no corporate PAC money. We ran talking about our immigrant stories, our backgrounds, our parents. I mean, every time Ayanna talks about her mother, I tear up. We talk about these forms of oppression that we’ve all gone through in our lives, in our workplaces and everything. But we ran just as we are, with nobody coming and trying to — like, “Mmm.” You know, they tried. And I’m like, “No, I don’t want your money. No, I’m going to be just like this.”

So, even not only in the halls of Congress, I’m going to tell you, even in Detroit politics, they’re like, “Oh my god, Rashida won.” Yeah, I’m going to push back against you spending money on a hockey stadium downtown Detroit, while a mile away, not even, a few blocks away, there’s a school with no drinking water, literally shutting down the drinking fountains. So, it’s also the fact that even on the grassroots level, that transformative change that was happening, organizing in the streets of Detroit, all of a sudden just reached the halls of Congress, right?

And so, believe in that movement. You are part of this new era that understands it. Yeah, we’re always — you know, I hate when they say “outside.” No, we’re an extension. We are. We are such an extension of what you all are doing. Plus, you all give us credibility. When I’m yelling about something, it’s like you’re all like, “No, that’s actually happening to me. What Rashida just said is true. You all just gave corporate tax dollars to a billionaire in downtown Detroit, Dan Gilbert, who’s been investigated for mortgage fraud, while you’re taking my children away. You’re taking my children away because I can’t pay for my water because it’s unaffordable, because you’re saying I’m neglecting. But you’ll spend money on a for-profit entity of foster care that is helping the private sector, but you won’t help me feed my babies.” So, I just want you to know, like every time we hear your stories, every time you’re out there pushing back, you all uplift what we’re doing inside. We are you. Like, I just hope you believe that. And please, God, because I don’t want to spend a long time there, run. It’s true. Run for office. Run for Congress. Run.

AMY GOODMAN: Congresswoman Pressley.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY: All right. OK, so, I just — I’ve been ruminating a lot on a sermon that a faith leader in my district gave not that long ago. And the sermon talked about moment, movement and momentum. And I just want to say, it’s like very tempting to think that in our righteousness, that we are in a moment that is ushering in a new movement. Now, I don’t know how long it takes a pebble to travel from the diaspora, the African diaspora, all the way to Chicago and then to Boston and then to D.C. That’s my life journey. But I’m just telling you that we’re actually in the momentum. And what I mean by that is, in the way that we are intentional about bringing our ancestors into spaces, I have got to bring people like Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters. This did not — this, yes, you know, there is a paradigm shift occurring, but there have been women before us, women of color before us, black women before us, who shook the table, who called to question, who sought justice, who were the truth tellers, who preserved our democracy. And we are simply honoring and trying to be good stewards of the ground that they laid.

And then, finally, I would say, we are often characterized as being disruptive. Now, if we were in Silicon Valley, we would be called innovators. So, yes, yeah, we are disrupters. We are innovators. And contrary to the opinion of many, we are actually patriots, because dissent is the ultimate patriotism.

AMY GOODMAN: Congresswomen Ayana Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. We’ll continue the conversation, conducted by Nermeen Shaikh, in 30 seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: “Belt of Faith” from the soundtrack of the movie Parasite. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to a rare joint interview with the Squad: Congresswomen Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh spoke to them Friday at Howard University Law School, an event organized by The Rising Majority. Nermeen began by asking a question of AOC.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to ask about what you think the global significance of what you’re doing here in the U.S. is. I remember many years ago — outside the U.S., of course — a joke being told repeatedly that everyone on the planet should be allowed to vote in the American elections, because the person who’s elected president here is effectively the president of the entire world, and obviously the policies that are formulated here have effects far beyond the borders of this country. So, in this sense, each of you — and also, of course, because of your origins, origins also, as you said, in suffering and exclusion and in the silencing of those stories — that you all also represent not only the hope of change here, but also the hope of change everywhere, and especially in the Global South. So, I wanted to ask what you think a more benign American power might look like.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: There are principles and paradigm shifts that we know that we need to make. I think that is something that all of us feel consciously or subconsciously. We need to move away from foreign policy, as Ilhan works so difficult — I mean, so diligently to do. And it is a difficult task, but we need to move away from a paradigm of imperialism, colonialism and, speaking for myself, late-stage hypercapitalism.

The grounds of consensus is something that I want us all to be more aware about domestically and internationally, because when we kind of toot the horn of bipartisanship and common ground, too often that consensus — the grounds of that consensus are in the expansion of war, are in the expansion of colonialism, are in the expansion of the unconscionable concentration of wealth, for not just the very few, but also just corporate and industrial interests. That is not just a domestic shift, that is a global shift. And whether it’s here, abroad, in our policies towards Native communities, whether it’s trampling over Native land to put gas pipelines because affluent communities don’t want them, whether it’s my family back home in Puerto Rico who is dominated by and oppressed by this administration yet has never been able to vote in a federal election and doesn’t have seats on the floor of Congress, or whether it’s abroad in the vast footprint of war or in the assistance of other Western forms of colonialism, I think these are conversations that we have to center and discuss.

I can’t speak to how we are symbolically in the world. That is too big of a thing for me to consider. But I do know that how I try to think of it is from also a place of faith, in that there is global struggle. I have faith in that. And I have faith that there are brothers and sisters and brethren all over the world who are in that common cause.

AMY GOODMAN: Rashida Tlaib.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: So, I know, for me — I mean, I grew up in like a UAW household. And I remember my father talking about, you know, just economic oppression. And it was an African-American Baptist pastor who said, you know, “Rashida, this country is not divided. And you could just say this world is not divided. We’re just disconnected.” And in our movement work and in our — in everything, in how we see our lens, like sometimes you almost want to clear the glass so that people understand it’s the same people trying to oppress me as trying to oppress you.

And one of the things he talked about in kind of labor organizing in the plants as he’s at Ford Motor Company is, when you walked in, you weren’t black or white. You didn’t know where people kind of lived. You didn’t know if this was a returning citizen or, you know, what people’s faith were. You were part of one family, the UAW. Right? You were — you organized, and it was one big — you know, just big organization against the corporate greed, pushing back and saying, “I deserve human dignity, I deserve to be able to take care of my family,” and all those kinds of things.

I think, globally, the economic oppression that is happening across the country, and you see kind of labor organizing, working class, coming together and fighting and saying, “We can do it if we come together and just fight against this common” — I think — “enemy, of corporate greed, of this othering, of saying, 'You deserve less than. You don't deserve to feel whole.’” And that’s one thing about my father, who only had fourth grade education. When he came to this country at 19, he never — literally, never got a paycheck until he got into the plant. And then the UAW made him feel like he belonged, because he was part of something bigger than him. He was showing up for others, all of a sudden, when he was part of this big large family. And I feel like a lot of just our mere presence there is also showing up for others that are outside the United States.

And there was a young girl. She was 8 years old, in Sacramento, California. Her name is Riyan. And she’s Palestinian-American, like myself. And she came. She was kind of doing this thing with her — with her jacket. Yeah, she had like a blazer. But, you know, Ayanna, like, as a mom, I’m like, “Oh, she wants me to recognize her blazer.” And I was like, “Riyan, I love your blazer. Look at it. It’s so cute. You know?” And she’s like, “Mm-hmm. I’m trying to look like you.” And then I was like, “Psssh, forget Congress. You’ve got to run for president of the United States.” And all of a sudden, she was like, “Uh-huh.” And I thought to myself, though, at that moment — and this is kind of connecting — of like how much it’s bigger, like I’m showing up somehow for her, and I don’t even realize it.

And then, this other brother came to me, came to my office. He was meeting with me. He goes, “You know, for so long, for so long, a lot of Palestinians just thought America didn’t love them. And you getting elected by a predominantly” — I think I have less than 5% Arab Americans in my district. The majority of my fellow Americans don’t share my faith, my ethnic background. They elected me. Somehow, that gave him light in a moment of darkness, or I gave him hope. And I think that’s what we kind of do, just our mere presence of just being there and speaking like we all speak. You know, even how we talk about issues is extremely different, and it’s somehow connecting globally with so many people outside of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Ilhan Omar.

REP. ILHAN OMAR: I think, to the point that Rashida was talking about, about us not being divided, but disconnected, is truly how I think about the thing that is wrong with the formation of our foreign policy, is that when we engage in the creation of our foreign policy, we are truly disconnected from the foreign nations that it will impact and the humans who are going to be impacted by our foreign policy. And so, even as we think about capitalism and we think about our trade policies and we think about the creation of jobs and we think about the fight for unionized labor here, oftentimes when we talk about dignified workplace, we don’t connect that to be something that someone else deserves in another country. And so, when you’re thinking about Mexico or Honduras or El Salvador or any of these countries that we might ship our jobs to and have a working environment there, we don’t think about the fact that these organizations, these corporations are now going to be exploiting workers over there. It’s not just that we are losing jobs, but there is literally going to be an exploitation of workers over there.

And so, when we think about it now in Congress, we’re having a conversation about cross-border negotiations happening for workers, because all of our destinies are tied together. When you see a Somali refugee or an Iraqi refugee or a Libyan refugee, we often are like, “Oh, this is my neighbor. They must have survived some struggle.” We don’t ever pause to think, “What American policy made them come over here?” Right? When you see a flooding happening in a country abroad and you are urgently raising money for these lives to be saved, you don’t think about, “How have I contributed to the climate warming that has led to these floodings and these catastrophes that are taking place abroad?” And so, when we are now thinking about a new way of reimagining a vision of what our foreign policy should be, and as I will introduce next week our pathway to peace in thinking about the world, it is important for us to have these connections between what sanctions could mean for the destruction of lives abroad, what human rights conditionalities could mean as we think about people who are using the weapons that are created in this country to take the lives of innocent children and women and men abroad, to really think about what it means for us to use some of the money that we decide should be going into militarizing our government, to using it for the prospect of peace around the world. And so there is so much that is possible if we stopped using the muscle memory that has become the norm in the ways that we formulate our policies.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Congressmember Pressley?

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY: I have to tell you, so, I mean, I’m just a genuine fan. I sit here, and I listen to them, and it’s like a mini TED Talk every time. You know? I learn so much every single time. I associate myself with all the comments that have already said, and then I would just again underscore that our destinies and our freedoms are tied. And what I want us to get to is — and you already do it, but we need more, more folk to be intentional and inclusive in our movement building and our coalition building and the breaking down of silos and of challenging folk to have equitable outrage.

So, I need people to understand the link between the humanitarian crisis at the border and babies being ripped from their mother’s arms and what happened in my household, in millions of American households, when my father was in and out of the criminal legal system for 14 years for being an addict. So, I’m for the preservation of family, from the border and, as I would say in my district, all the way to Blue Hill Avenue. So, it’s not a competition; there is no hierarchy of hurt. If you are aghast at the crisis of human trafficking globally, then don’t look at what’s happening in your own backyard and see that as blight and affecting your property values, and not understand the brokenness and not see those folks as your neighbors. If you are concerned about human rights violations and abuses and what is happening to women and rape being used as a tool of war and oppression, please pay attention to what is happening right here. If you are concerned about the violation, the undermining of women’s rights globally, then pay attention to what’s happening with Hyde and the gag rule and the ROE Act and in our courts and abortion.

And so, our freedoms and our destinies are tied. And what we need to get to is stop what Ilhan and I have often referred to as like the Oppression Olympics. You know, this is not a competition for who is sinking the fastest. There is no hierarchy of hurt. And so, what I’m looking for is equitable outrage, inclusive organizing and our collective upliftment.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. The Squad was interviewed by Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh Friday at Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., at an event organized by The Rising Majority.

Democracy Now! has internships, fellowships. Check it out at democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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