22:02 | 16/12/2020 Print
The term is making headlines, but Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib have their own definition.
Sometime in the past few months, four members of Congress came to be referred to in mainstream media outlets as “the Squad." It is a common social media expression of friendship and solidarity that has its roots in hip-hop.
The story of how that happened says a lot about politics in America today.
Back in November, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then a representative-elect from New York, posted a photo of herself with three progressive women of color who, like her, were soon to be members of Congress — Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). The caption: “Squad.”
The photo went viral, with a raft of positive media coverage. But the term “the Squad” became more widespread in media earlier this month when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd used it in an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in which Pelosi took the four to task for voting against a border funding bill.
Then President Trump got involved, with racist tweets that didn’t name the four congresswomen of color specifically but seemed clearly directed at them, telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Ever since then, “the Squad” has been cropping up in headlines. At this point, “the Squad” has become a term whose meaning depends on who’s using it. For some critics, it can be a way of targeting and demeaning female politicians of color who “represent everything that stands against the status quo,” as Kelly Dittmar, an assistant political science professor and scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, told Vox.
But for the representatives themselves, using the term can be a way to express solidarity not just with each other but with supporters around the country, Dittmar said. As Pressley put it on Monday, “our squad is big.”
Today, what “the Squad” means varies based on who’s using the term. Opponents of the congresswomen, like Kellyanne Conway, have begun using “the Squad” in a dismissive way.
“Because this is a sort of term that has come from social media and pop culture,” Dittmar, the Center for American Women and Politics scholar, explained, “those who are in opposition try to use it to demean the seriousness of not only these women but also what they’re doing.”
That kind of demeaning language is part of a longstanding pattern on the right of targeting the four congresswomen. They are a convenient target for Trump and his supporters because they are young, progressive women of color representing progressive districts, Dittmar said. Trump and others are trying to send the message that “these people who are trying to change everything, and who are different, are dangerous,” she said.
Some have criticized media use of “the squad” as infantilizing or sexist. It can also feel appropriative. “It’s just like, we’re going to take something that people of color have been using and try to claim it or use it as our own without understanding where it comes from,” Brown said.
It’s also worth noting that just because Ocasio-Cortez once captioned a picture “Squad” doesn’t mean that the four congresswomen see themselves as a separate group from others in Congress, or in America. That’s a separation that’s been imposed upon them, by Pelosi and then by Trump.
In fact, the four have pushed back against the notion that “squad” is an exclusive term. “Our squad is big,” Pressley said at a press conference Monday. “Our squad includes any person committed to creating a more equitable and just world.”
When Vox asked Pressley how she felt about the use of the term, a spokesperson pointed to an interview with the Boston Globe in which the lawmaker made a similar statement: “If you share the values and believe in creating a more equitable and just world, you are part of ‘the squad.’” Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment for this story, and Omar and Tlaib have not yet responded to Vox’s inquiry, according to vox.com.
More than three dozen members of Congress signed onto a letter Tuesday calling for President-elect Joe Biden to halt the federal government's use of the death penalty and show he's willing "to dismantle its use altogether."
"With a stroke of your pen, you can stop all federal executions, prohibit United States Attorneys from seeking the death penalty, dismantle death row at FCC [Federal Correctional
Complex] Terre Haute, and call for the resentencing of people who are currently sentenced to death," read the letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. "Each of these elements are critical to help prevent greater harm and further loss of life."
Pressley's fellow "Squad" members--Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan--signed onto the letter and have been outspoken in their opposition to the death penalty. Other signatories have been vocal in their opposition as well, cites foxnews.com.
The group of 40 Democratic members, plus three members-elect, sent the letter amid a broader uproar over the Trump administration executing a series of criminals in recent weeks. Its execution of convicted murderer Daniel Lewis Lee in July was the first federal execution in 17 years.
|For the four congresswomen, defining the squad as something inclusive and expansive may be a way to push back against efforts — whether they’re by Trump or Pelosi — to paint them as a small group that isn’t representative of America. |
The way they’re using the term “squad” now is drawing support on social media and elsewhere, which in turn puts pressure on Democratic Party leaders to take them and their message seriously, Dittmar said. Voters, she explained, are saying, “that’s the squad I want to be a part of.”
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