Press Release

National Nurses Statement on Rep. Ilhan Omar, Bigotry, and the Bid to Silence Progressive Women of Color

Somali American candidate for Minnesota State Representative, Ilhan Omar. Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull (CC)
Somali American candidate for Minnesota State Representative, Ilhan Omar. Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull (CC)

National Nurses United opposes the attacks on Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and the broader campaign to marginalize and silence progressive voices of elected women of color.
NNU has long been on record condemning anti-Semitism, racism, Islamaphobia, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender or national origin. The present debate over Rep. Omar, however, has only served to misrepresent the real threats and bigotry.
We have all seen the violent and other harmful effects of such bigotry that pose a threat to all our communities, and to the health and safety of our families, our neighbors, and our society.
What should concern all Americans is the sharp rise in such hate crimes and virulent expressions of racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism by white supremacists in particular, in the past two years, that is irresponsibly encouraged by the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration.
The denunciations of Rep. Omar reflect some broader, disturbing trends.
First, there is a clear attempt to silence any critics of the far-right policies of the Israeli government, and any criticism of U.S. policies that support those policies, and, as was also evident in the Senate proposal to criminalize those advocating boycott or disinvestment in Israel in violation of free speech rights.
Every American, and certainly members of Congress, has the democratic right to voice objections to U.S. policies regarding any foreign country.
Suggesting that any criticism of Israeli policies, as some have done, is anti-Semitic is not only wrong, it in itself borders on anti-Semitism by implying that the Jewish community is monolithic in views on Israeli policies simply by the fact of common ethnicity.
Second, there is a double standard when statements by a Muslim woman are widely condemned while far more blatant anti-Jewish stereotypes have been repeatedly portrayed by prominent Republicans, from members of Congress to the White House, without similar demands for Congressional censure, and while Islamophobia is increasingly widespread, also with little censure.
Third, the rush to denunciation of Rep. Omar should be viewed in context of attacks on other, also young, progressive women of color, notably Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Many of the attacks on all three women, in particular, are an effort to limit their vital voice on progressive policy issues and the influence they have in our increasingly diverse nation.
NNU is, in fact, proud of the role all three women have fulfilled in Congress, most recently as Rep. Omar stood with other members of the House in welcoming introduction of legislation, H.R. 1384 that would guarantee health care for all residents of our nation, a critically needed social reform. Her stance shows a strong commitment to the health and safety of all Americans.