Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush says her very first interactions with other newly-elected lawmakers in Washington D.C. show the need for greater diversity in Congress.
Bush shared an anecdote with journalist Soledad O’Brien during TheWrap’s Power Women Summit 2020 on Thursday, recalling that her peers at congressional orientation thought her name was Breonna Taylor because her face mask bore the name of the Black woman who was killed by police earlier this year.
Bush believes the incident during orientation — or “Congress School” as she calls it — would not have happened if Congress reflected “every sect of our society” and its members came from varied backgrounds. As O’Brien pointed out, Bush is single mother, registered nurse, ordained pastor, activist and community organizer.
“I absolutely think more people should have my resume,” said Bush, a Democrat who won her Nov. 3 race to represent Missouri’s first district. “We need regular people who are doing work for people on the ground in communities seated in Congress. We need people from every area, from every sect of our society. We have to be a diverse Congress because our country is diverse. If we don’t have those perspectives — if we don’t have that type of leadership where people feel touched, where people feel outreached — then we’ll continue to have this disconnect that people feel between the government and the people.”
The disconnect she referenced was exemplified in the story she shared with O’Brien. Bush said that during the first day of orientation, she wore a mask bearing the name of Taylor, a Black woman who was shot to death when police entered her Kentucky home while she slept earlier this year. In spite of the widespread attention given to the case during ongoing unrest over racial inequity in America, Bush has stated that her new colleagues assumed it was her name and addressed her as Breonna.
O’Brien pointed out that it was noteworthy not only that the six or so unnamed incoming congresspeople in Bush’s recollection didn’t recognize the name of a woman killed by police this year — whose photo was placed on billboards around her hometown by Oprah this summer so she would be appropriately memorialized and remembered — but that they didn’t recognize Bush, the first Black woman elected from Missouri.
Emotionally, the congresswoman-elect remembered thinking, “Is this malicious? Is this serious? Like, what?”
Ultimately, the incident gave her conviction: “That’s why this voice and the voices of so many people like me have to be represented. Each one of us brings something different and for me, there are many people who would like to silence me. There are many people who feel like, ‘We’re tired of hearing about Black Lives Matter. We’re tired of hearing Cori the Activist. She’s always talking about this particular subject,’ but you know what? Because we’re still dying, I’m going to keep talking about it!”
To hear Cori Bush do just that, watch her Power Women Summit spotlight conversation above.