Rep. Jahana Hayes, the first Black congresswoman to represent Connecticut, recounted Tuesday what happened when racists interrupted one of her online campaign events.
“Our fourth meeting starts, and about 10 minutes in I hear ‘shut up N-word,’” Hayes, a Democrat running for reelection, wrote in a Medium essay. “I pause, not sure how to react, but I catch a glimpse of all the faces of the people who have joined the meeting. They are mortified, shocked, embarrassed, hurt and I could tell they didn’t know what to do next.”
The event, hosted on the video chatting app Zoom, was meant to be a forum to discuss Hayes’ legislative work and her campaign. Instead, several participants on the call sought to disrupt the event by repeating the racist slur in what Hayes described as a “coordinated effort.”
“Six minutes of vile, disgusting, dare I say deplorable, hate ― and I am on full display as I process, in real time, what is happening,” Hayes wrote.
The congresswoman’s communications team removed those yelling out the slur one after another until the event could proceed. A representative from Zoom later asked for details about what happened, according to The Washington Post.
Hayes’ Republican opponent, David X. Sullivan, condemned the incident Tuesday on Twitter.
“It is appalling that a bigoted coward would direct insults at Congresswoman Hayes, interfere and disrupt a legitimate campaign activity, and besmirch the reputation of the good people of the 5th District of Connecticut,” Sullivan said.
Hayes wrote in her essay that she felt it was important to speak up about the verbal abuse, something that is all too commonly faced by women of color:
Black women are expected to press on, to ignore this behavior; to not talk explicitly about it because it is uncomfortable, divisive or does not reflect the sentiments of most people. I have watched other women weather this storm and fend off these types of attacks and wonder if in their quiet places they have felt what I am feeling right now. We have become numb to this behavior, instinct kicks in and we just move on. So many well intentioned people say things like, ignore it, you’re better than that or don’t let it bother you. Even as I write, I am exhausted by the fact that I am carefully choosing my words, so as to capture the experience, but not offend the reader. We are left debating zoom security, yet not addressing the underlying issue ― that pockets of racism and hate still exist right in our own front yard. The most painful part of it all is that no matter what you achieve in life, no matter how many degrees you earn or how good of a person you try to be ― all some people will ever allow themselves to see is a N-word.
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