Rashida Tlaib, Activist, Attorney, and Congresswoman (D-MI)
After the 9/11 attacks, Rashida Tlaib and her family faced heightened scrutiny and suspicion for being Muslim. The Detroit native felt “fearful” and then frustrated, which fueled her to take political action on behalf of underrepresented communities. Now she’s become the first Muslim woman ever elected to Congress.
RASHIDA TLAIB: I love when a Muslim father comes up to me and says to his daughter, "She is a Muslim." We're constantly looking for permission to be in leadership roles. And we need to shake that out of our young girls, and in the meantime, keep asking women to run.
I grew up in southwest Detroit, born and raised. I am the eldest of 14. I grew up pretty much taking care of them. Even though I would cry every time my mom brought another baby home, I now realize it made me stronger. Both my parents are immigrants born in Palestine. Grew up with those kind of old-school traditional values. Everything was-- your life began after you got married.
And I remember hearing the stories of my grandfather in Palestine being shot 11 times because he wouldn't leave his land, telling me about how he felt so oppressed in his own homeland. I think my grandfather embedded in me really believing in the freedom to just live. So I knew I wanted to do something around activism. I know it's corny, but I always wanted to free the world.
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I remember my parents' home being surrounded by gunmen all around and being interviewed by the FBI for hours. It was the first time I felt fearful of my own government. And I just felt like nobody cared that this was happening to this family, who are Americans. There was just a heightened fear among the Arab-American community across the country. It really pushed me to be more involved.
I literally laughed out loud and I said, "I would never sell out and run for office." It took seven different people to ask me to run before I was convinced. And it was one of my colleagues. She said, "People like us never think about running for office. And that's the problem." I thought to myself, I'm not going to be forced out just because I'm Muslim. I'm going to be showing people that if you work hard enough, if you love your community enough, you can do whatever the heck you want.
Women are very conscientious of the responsibility of being in office. And we also have those insecurities that's embedded in us by society. Every woman I see, if there's a little spark there, I tell her, "Ever thought of running for office?" They kind of look at you like you're crazy. And six months later, they run for office.
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