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Mutually Inclusive
A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Rashida Tlaib: How a Michigan Congresswoman is changing public service

“When I talk to people now, they say, ‘Rashida, how cool is this going to be not only did you get kicked out of the Trump rally before he became President because you asked him if he ever read the U.S. Constitution, but now you get to walk out to the house floor after the Muslim ban,’ and I said yeah. So, this to many that are not of Muslim faith but are American and believe the possibility of America and believe that if there is any answer to the hate rhetoric to so much of the darkness that is right now in our country is to put this little bit of hope: that me being elected and me coming to congress and me making history—what a powerful,  inspirational message for the whole nation, and even outside of the country. I love the fact that it happened in a community that is not of the same faith or majority Arab American, this came from Americans that don’t share that but they share my love for country, my love for diversity and for someone that will go there and fight back and not back down.”

That was Rashida Tlaib. Last Tuesday, Tlaib was elected by a predominantly Black American voters to represent the 13thDistrict of Michigan in Congress. She will be the first Muslim woman to serve in this capacity. 

So, Rashida can you tell us a little bit of your background? 

I was born and raised in the United States, in Detroit. I went to all Detroit Public Schools. I am the eldest of 14 children, both of my parents are from Palestine. My dad actually spent his teenage years in Nicaragua. My family, my grandmother wanted to try to find a better life and unfortunately found more poverty in Nicaragua but he came at the early age of 19 years old to the United States. His first job here was with Ford Motor Company, and eight years later he went back to Palestine and met my mother and it was attraction at first sight – is what I say. And then they fell in love and got married and had all of us children. 

Rashida made history in 2008 by winning her race for State Representative. At the time she started to push back against discriminatory practices against employers, wage theft, and environmental pollution affecting her residents. Part of her platform this election was to push for a policy she calls Justice for All Civil Rights Act. Can you explain what the Justice for All Civil Rights Act?  continue the fight to push for a policy she calls Justice for All Civil Rights Act: 

“So Justice for All Civil Rights Act goes back to the core value of what the act was 55 years ago. Now today because the courts completely changed what the Civil Rights Act of ’54 was about which is now they say you have to show intent. Intentional discrimination. 

Well that is not what was meant. You can show impact. In’64 as it was passed you could show that the disparate impact of the policy in itself if its discriminatory then it’s a violation of your civil rights. Ill give you an example, use of credit score. The use of credit score right now by insurance agencies. That to me, that impact of that policy impact people of color the most. 

Impact people of working class. Impacts eople based on their income. That should be a violation of civil rights for the use of the credit score. But because over the last 55, 3 or 4 decades, the cours changed it – by case law in saying and interpreting the Civil Rights Act of ’64, saying that “no, no, no, you can only do it and say it’s a violation if its intentional.” 

As a public servant, Rashida believes in taking a different strategy one that hits the ground running while simultaneously proposing policy changes. 

“My residents love the idea that getting them through everyday issue is going to go hand in hand with the legislative work. With the fight against the Trump agenda and for us to fight for equity for children in the education system, because right now many of them don’t have time to wait for me to pass Medicare for all or the minimum wage increase, or all the other issues that I think are really critical right now for the American families that are struggling. And those service centers are going to be advocates there, there are going to be people that I am going to partner with from community based organizations and others. We are not waiting for ordinances, or state bills to pass, or federal bills to pass – we are trying to advocate and help families now through the power of the letter head, through the power of convening people, through the power of connecting with those civil service workers that are in these departments. So I am looking forward to doing that as soon as I get there as well.” 

What do you say for the future of American politics in electing more people with your similar background, experience and political agenda? 

“Yes I am the first but I guarantee you I am not the last. I think Ilhan (Iljan) Omar in Minnesota is going to make it happen. I went there these last few days, and helped her and talked to so many of her supporters from different backgrounds. She is going to make history and maybe its not just one but two Muslim American women walking out to the house floor together hand in hand. What an incredible American story.” 

I am Michelle Jokisch Polo, and this is Mutually Inclusive for WGVU News. 

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