According to Bush, a Missouri progressive who counts herself among the incoming members of the “Squad,” when she arrived in the Capitol for orientation wearing a mask with Breonna Taylor’s name on it, some Republicans called her “Breonna” throughout the day.
“It’s Day One, so I’m wearing my ‘Breonna Taylor’ mask. A few of my Republican colleagues have called me Breonna, assuming that’s my name,” Bush wrote in a tweet on Friday. “It hurts. But I’m glad they’ll come to know her name & story because of my presence here. Breonna must be central to our work in Congress.”
Bush later confirmed to reporters: “I didn’t hear it once, I didn’t hear it twice. I heard it several times.”
Bush’s read on the situation could still be too generous. It seems equally likely to me that the Republican members she encountered may have been mocking Bush, who’s known as a prominent leader of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson. There’s also the fact of Republicans’ recent history of deliberately bungling the names of Black women. “Kamala, or Kamala, Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know,” Georgia Senator David Purdue said at an October Trump rally, referring to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
And such a gesture would be perfectly in line with some Republican lawmakers’ attitude toward other members of the “Squad,” as when Florida Rep. Ted Yoho called Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “fucking bitch.”
Of course, the possibility that Republican members of Congress aren’t familiar with the name of Breonna Taylor—the 26-year-old who was fatally shot by police earlier this year and became a focus of mass protests against police brutality—is horrifying in its own way.
But Bush, at her core an organizer and activist, sees an opportunity in her colleagues’ apparent ignorance.
“It just saddens me ... that people in leadership, people that want to be in leadership don’t know the struggles that are happening to Black people in this country,” Bush said. “And it’s just disheartening and it was hurtful, absolutely hurtful.”
“But it’s okay,” she continued, “because we’ll educate and we’ll make sure that people know who she is, what she stood for, that she was an award-winning EMT in her community, that she’s someone who deserves justice right now.”