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By Julianne Malveaux —

Republican Congressman Troy Nehls (R-TX) attacked his colleague, St. Louis Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO), with rash, brash, and out-of-control language. It happened at the end of January, but somehow, his attack stuck in my craw. I am tired of unprincipled attacks on Black women, and more than that, I am tired of the casual use of racist tropes to demean us. The misogyny that Black women experience often goes unanswered. I’ve had enough.

Congresswoman Bush is being investigated for her use of campaign funds. After numerous death threats, she has chosen to use those funds, which are not federal funds, to hire security to protect her. One of the security officers she has hired is her husband, who has worked as a security guard. She has done nothing illegal, although anyone would say the appearance is challenging. One investigation has found that she has done nothing wrong. The second investigation will likely see the same thing.

Troy Nehls, clearly a virulent racist, was asked what he thought. He described Cortney Merrits, Cori Buish’s husband, as a “thug .”Really? Nehls is a disgraced former police officer fired for mishandling evidence. He served our country as an Army reservist and was an elected sheriff in Fort Bend, Texas, from 2013 through 2021. He ran for office planning to address issues of health care for veterans. So why is he attacking a fellow veteran, Cortney Merrits, as a “thug”? Does he only have concerns for veterans when they are white? Should he not have respect for a colleague’s husband, who served our country and put his life on the line? A deep dive into Mr. Nehls’s background reveals him to be a deeply flawed, indeed unsavory, individual and an undistinguished member of Congress who needs to know how to keep his mouth shut.

Nehls did not stop at attacking Cori Bush’s husband. He went on to call her “loud” and to say that if she “toned it down,” she would not have experienced the death threats that require her to have private security. Loud? Cori Bush was not elected to be quiet. She has been a tireless advocate, a Black Lives Matter leader, and a vocal member of “The Squad,” a force for social and economic justice. Loud? I wish she were louder and more vocal because she speaks our truth. Some are upset that she has called for a cease-fire in Israel, and in her reelection campaign, she has attracted opponents who disagree with her stance. She increasingly represents the progressive voices who are disgusted with the loss of 25,000 or more Palestinian lives because of Israel’s “response” to the Hamas October 7 attack. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to wipe Palestinians out of Gaza, and the United Nations has advised Israel to stop targeting civilian lives. Cori Bush is saying nothing more than any conscientious human being is saying. Tone it down? No, turn it up!

Nehls’ comments about Congresswoman Cori Bush are inflaming, and his description of her as “loud” reminds me of the 1918 lynching of Mary Turner, a young black woman who protested the murder of her husband and threatened to press charges against the white men who killed him. She was described as “mouthy,” or in other words, loud. Because she had the nerve to confront white men, she was lynched. She was nine months pregnant when she was killed, hung by her ankles, doused with gasoline, and set on fire. She was under such physical distress as she was lynched that she expelled her fetus, which rabid and soulless white men then stomped to death.

Most of our nation’s five thousand known lynchings were of Black men, but as many as one hundred Black women were lynched, and Mary Turner is one of them. She was lynched as an example. Don’t speak up, Black women, or you will suffer consequences. Don’t confront white men, or we will knock you down. Mr. Nehls invoked a dangerous racist trope, and he has yet to apologize for his language. He isn’t likely to apologize because it is open season on Black people, and these racist tropes play well with his crowd. He helped the Capitol Police barricade the capitol on January 6 but has since written a book supportive of the 45th President. He fits right in with the racist crowd that has nothing but disdain for Black people (except Tim Scott) and Black women.

Nehl’s racist rant is rash, brash, and out of control. We must respond to him forcefully and throw our enthusiastic support behind Congresswoman Cori Bush, an American patriot, activist, and sheroe.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is a member of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC), an economist, author and Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at California State University at Los Angeles.