Articles

Rashida Tlaib: From Detroit organizer to D.C. lawmaker


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. I grew up in 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.

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