‘You almost had me murdered three weeks ago’
Is this a turning point in the struggle against white, male supremacy? By baring her emotions openly on Instagram, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also issued a challenge to Republicans.
“This was the moment where I thought everything was... over. I thought I was going to die.”
That is how Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described the moment that she was forced to hide from Capitol Hill rioters.
In a long, often emotional Instagram video, she recounted closing herself off in the bathroom of her office as the rioters stormed the building. She said that from her hiding place she could hear an angry male voice in her office shouting: “Where is she?”
She went on to launch an attack against Republicans who have called on Americans to “move on” from the riot and the Trump presidency, accusing them of using the “tactics of abusers”.
The video showed remarkable openness for a frontline politician. Dressed casually and speaking directly to her phone camera, Ocasio-Cortez, often called just AOC, talked for the first time about suffering abuse earlier in her life, and about the “spiritual moment” in which she reflected on what would happen after her death.
Exposing her trauma will be a comfort to all those who are terrified of white supremacist groups because it lets them know they are not alone. But in putting out the video, she has also made a dramatic political point.
According to AOC and her followers, Donald Trump’s presidency was the result of a system of white male supremacy that has dominated American public life throughout the country’s history. For her, it is a system that champions power, violence, strength of will and has little respect for emotional openness, healing and mutual support.
By talking so openly about her trauma, many agree AOC has shown that a very different kind of politics is possible.
In recent weeks, Ocasio-Cortez has criticised the Republican Party for what she sees as its increasing tolerance for violent, white supremacist views. She has argued that Republican politicians can allow violence and white supremacy with impunity, facing no consequences from the party.
In particular, she has clashed with Republican politician Ted Cruz, claiming that he “almost had me murdered”. Cruz was originally a critic of Trump, but in the last four years, he has become one of the former president’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders.
He was one of two senators who attempted to overturn the 2020 election result on the day of the Capitol Hill riots, endorsing Trump’s false claims that the election had been rigged in Joe Biden’s favour. Some have argued that he is partly to blame for the violence.
Many think that Cruz has changed his position because he hopes to pick up Trump’s supporters in his next run for the presidency in 2024. As the runner-up in the last Republican contest, he is in pole position to win the party’s nomination next time around.
For AOC, Cruz demonstrates what is wrong with the modern Republican Party. Now that Republicans know they can appeal to a portion of the population by advocating white supremacy, she argues, they are openly embracing it.
Is this a turning point in the struggle against white, male supremacy?
Yes, say some. They argue that AOC’s emotional honesty is already a body blow to white, male supremacy. Most people will never have seen a US politician talking so openly about past trauma and fearing for her life. She has captured the sense of terror and betrayal that many people of colour feel about Trump’s political movement, and that means she can rally a movement to fight it.
Not at all, say others. They claim that AOC’s video is hardly unique: Joe Biden, an old white man with a mixed record on racial issues, has used the same language of trauma, especially over the death of his son Beau. The average American is looking for unity, not the anger and division that will arise from confronting Republicans over their support of Trump.
- Is it positive for public figures like AOC to talk openly about their feelings?
- Is politics too masculine? Should we be trying to change how we do it?
- Draw a poster warning people about the dangers of white male supremacy.
- Write and present a short news report on AOC’s Instagram video.
Some People Say...
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”James Baldwin (1924 - 1987), American writer
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Most people agree that the Capitol Hill riot was a decisive moment in modern American history. While there had been mass gatherings of the far-right before, notably in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, this was the first time that they had organised to attack the US government. It also raised important questions about the involvement of police officers in far-right movements in the USA. As Biden has acknowledged, defeating the far right in the USA will be a major challenge of his presidency.
- What do we not know?
- There is some debate over what path the Republican Party might take from here. Mitch McConnell, the leader of the party’s senators, has pushed back against Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud and the QAnon conspiracy theory, for fear of alienating more moderate voters. Meanwhile, other Republicans see Trump’s electoral coalition as an opportunity that the party should build on by swinging further towards Trump’s views.
- Capitol Hill
- The seat of the US Senate and House of Representatives. The riot on 6 January marked the first time it had been stormed since 1812.
- In American politics it is common to refer to politicians with three names by their initials: so Franklin Delano Roosevelt became FDR, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy was called JFK. AOC is the first Latina politician to have this done to her name.
- White male supremacy
- A system in which white men have social advantages and power over women, people of colour and especially women of colour.
- Freedom from punishment even after committing an obvious injustice.
- Ted Cruz
- One of two senators from Texas. In 2016 he was the last candidate standing against Trump. He is Latino: his family is originally from Cuba.
- The next presidential election will be held in 2024. Most candidates will declare that they are running in 2023.
- Almost every competitive Republican primary since 1980 has been won by the runner-up in the previous primary. The only exceptions are 2016 when Trump won despite never having run before, and 2000, when George W Bush was the victor.
- Pole position
- In a leading or dominant position. The phrase comes from motor racing, where a driver starts a race in the most favourable position.