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We are African Americans, we are patriots, and we refuse to sit idly by

We are African Americans, we are patriots, and we refuse to sit idly by

President Barack Obama walks out to the Rose Garden at the White House on April 2, 2015. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP) We’ve heard this before. Go back where you came from. Go back to Africa. And now, “send her back.” Black and brown people in America don’t hear these chants in a vacuum; for many of us, we’ve felt their full force being shouted in our faces, whispered behind our backs, scrawled across lockers, or hurled at us online. They are part of a pattern in our country designed to denigrate us as well as keep us separate and afraid. As 148 African Americans who served in the last administration, we witnessed firsthand the relentless attacks on the legitimacy of President Barack Obama and his family from our front-row seats to America’s first black presidency. Witnessing racism surge in our country, both during and after Obama’s service and ours, has been a shattering reality, to say the least. But it has also provided jet-fuel for our activism, especially in moments such as these. We stand with congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, as well as all those currently under attack by President Trump, along with his supporters and his enablers, who feel deputized to decide who belongs here — and who does not. There is truly nothing more un-American than calling on fellow citizens to leave our country — by citing their immigrant roots, or ancestry, or their unwillingness to sit in quiet obedience while democracy is being undermined. We are proud descendants of immigrants, refugees and the enslaved Africans who built this country while enduring the horrors of its original sin. We stand on the soil they tilled, and march in the streets they helped to pave. We are red-blooded Americans, we are patriots, and we have plenty to say about the direction this country is headed. We decry voter suppression. We demand equitable access to health care, housing, quality schools and employment. We welcome new Americans with dignity and open arms. And we will never stop fighting for the overhaul of a criminal-justice system with racist foundations. We come from Minnesota and Michigan. The Bronx and Baton Rouge. Florida and Philadelphia. Cleveland and the Carolinas. Atlanta and Nevada. Oak-town and the Chi. We understand our role in this democracy, and respect the promise of a nation built by, for and of immigrants. We are part of that tradition, and have the strength to both respect our ancestors from faraway lands and the country we all call home. Our love of country lives in these demands, and our commitment to use our voices and our energy to build a more perfect union. We refuse to sit idly by as racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia are wielded by the president and any elected official complicit in the poisoning of our democracy. We call on local, state and congressional officials, as well as presidential candidates to articulate their policies and strategies for moving us forward as a strong democracy, through a racial-equity lens that prioritizes people over profit. We will continue to support candidates for local, state and federal office who add more diverse representation to the dialogue and those who understand the importance of such diversity when policymaking here in our country and around the world. We ask all Americans to be a good neighbor by demonstrating anti-racist, environmentally friendly, and inclusive behavior toward everyone in your everyday interactions. The statesman Frederick Douglass warned, “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.” This nation has neither grappled with nor healed from the horrors of its origins. It is time to advance that healing process now through our justice, economic, health and political systems. Expect to hear more from us. We plan to leave this country better than we found it. This is our home. Saba Abebe , former special assistant, Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, Energy Department Tsehaynesh Abebe , former adviser, U.S. Agency for International Development David Adeleye , former policy specialist, White House Bunmi Akinnusotu , former special assistant, Office of Land and Emergency Management, Environmental Protection Agency Trista Allen , former senior adviser to the regional administrator, General Services Administration Maria Anderson , former operations assistant, White House Karen Andre , former White House liaison, Department of Housing and Urban Development Caya Lewis Atkins , former counselor for science and public health, Department of Health and Human Services Roy L. Austin Jr. , former deputy assistant to the president, White House Domestic Policy Council Kevin Bailey , former special assistant, White House; senior policy adviser, Treasury Department Jumoke Balogun , former adviser to the secretary, Labor Department Diana Banks , former deputy assistant secretary, Defense Department Desiree N. Barnes , former adviser to the press secretary, White House Kevin F. Beckford , former special adviser, Department of Housing and Urban Development Alaina Beverly , former associate director, Office of Urban Affairs, White House Saba Bireda , former senior counsel, Office for Civil Rights, Education Department Vincent H. Bish Jr. , former special assistant to the assistant secretary of strategic program management, Department of Health and Human Services Michael Blake , former director for African American, minority and women business enterprises and county and statewide elected officials, White House Tenicka Boyd , former special assistant, Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Education Department Tanya Bradsher , former assistant secretary for public affairs, Department of Homeland Security Stacey Brayboy , former chief of staff, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Agriculture Department Allyn Brooks-LaSure , former deputy associate administrator for external affairs, Environmental Protection Agency Chiquita Brooks-LaSure , former director of coverage policy, Office of Health Reform, Department of Health and Human Services Quincy K. Brown , former senior policy adviser, Office of Science and Technology Policy, White House Taylor Campbell , former director of correspondence systems innovation, White House Crystal Carson , former chief of staff to the director of communications, White House Genger Charles , former general deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Housing, Federal Housing Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development Glorie Chiza , former associate director, Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, White House Sarah Haile Coombs , special assistant, Department of Health and Human Services Michael Cox , former special assistant to the assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs, Commerce Department Adria Crutchfield , former director of external affairs, Federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, Department of Housing and Urban Development Joiselle Cunningham , former special adviser, Office of the Secretary, Education Department Charlotte Flemmings Curtis , former special adviser for White House initiatives, Corporation for National and Community Service Kareem Dale , former special assistant to the president for disability policy, White House Marco A. Davis , former deputy director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics Russella L. Davis-Rogers , former chief of staff, Office of Strategic Partnerships, Department of Education Tequia Hicks Delgado , former senior adviser for congressional engagement and legislative relations, Office of Legislative Affairs, White House Kalisha Dessources Figures , former policy adviser, White House Council on Women and Girls Leek Deng , former special assistant, Bureau for Global Health, U.S. Agency for International Development Tene Dolphin , former chief of staff, Economic Development Administration, Commerce Department Monique Dorsainvil , former deputy chief of staff, Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, White House Joshua DuBois , former executive director, Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; former special assistant to the president, White House Dru Ealons , former director, Office of Public Engagement, Environmental Protection Agency Rosemary Enobakhare , former deputy associate administrator for public engagement and environmental education, Environmental Protection Agency Karen Evans , former assistant director and policy adviser, Office of Cabinet Affairs, White House Clarence J. Fluker , former deputy associate director for national parks and youth engagement, White House Council on Environmental Quality Heather Foster , former public engagement adviser and director of African American affairs, White House Kalina Francis , former special adviser, Office of Public Affairs, Treasury Department Matthew “Van” Buren Freeman , former senior adviser, Minority Business Development Agency, Commerce Department Cameron French , former deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development Jocelyn Frye , former deputy assistant to the president and director of policy and special projects for the first lady, White House Bernard Fulton , former deputy assistant secretary for congressional relations, Department of Housing and Urban Development Stephanie Gaither , former confidential assistant to the deputy director, Office of Management and Budget, White House Demetria A. Gallagher , former senior adviser for policy and inclusive innovation, Commerce Department Lateisha Garrett , former White House liaison, National Endowment for the Humanities W. Cyrus Garrett , former special adviser to the director of counternarcotics enforcement, Department of Homeland Security Bishop M. Garrison , former science and technology directorate adviser, Department of Homeland Security Lisa Gelobter , former chief digital service officer, Education Department A’shanti F. Gholar , former special assistant to the secretary, Labor Department Jay R. Gilliam , former special assistant, U.S. Agency for International Development Artealia Gilliard , former deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy, Transportation Department Brenda Girton-Mitchell , former director, Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Education Department Jason Green , former associate counsel and special assistant to the president, White House Corey Arnez Griffin , former associate director, Peace Corps Kyla F. Griffith , former special adviser to the secretary, Commerce Department Simone L. Hardeman-Jones , former deputy assistant secretary, Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs, Education Department Thamar Harrigan , former senior intergovernmental relations adviser, Department of Housing and Urban Development Dalen Harris , former director, Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison, Office of National Drug Control Policy, White House Khalilah M. Harris , former deputy director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans; former senior adviser, Office of Personnel Management Adam Hodge , former deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, Treasury Department Valerie Jarrett , former senior adviser, White House Will Yemi Jawando , former associate director, Office of Public Engagement, White House Karine Jean-Pierre , former northeast political director, Office of Political Affairs, White House A. Jenkins , former director, Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Commerce Department Adora Jenkins , former press secretary, Justice Department; former deputy associate administrator for external affairs, Environmental Protection Agency W. Nate Jenkins , former chief of staff and senior adviser to the budget director, Office of Management and Budget, White House David J. Johns , former executive director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Brent Johnson , former special adviser to the secretary, Commerce Department Broderick Johnson , former White House assistant to the president and Cabinet secretary for My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Carmen Daniels Jones , former director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Agriculture Department Gregory K. Joseph II , former special assistant, Office of the Executive Secretariat, Energy Department Jamia Jowers , former special assistant, National Security Council Charmion N. Kinder , former associate, Press Office of the First Lady, White House; former assistant press secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development Elise Nelson Leary , former international affairs adviser, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kimberlyn Leary , former adviser, White House Council on Women and Girls Daniella Gibbs Léger , former special assistant to the president and director of message events, White House Georgette Lewis , former policy adviser, Department of Health and Human Services Kevin Lewis , former director of African American media, White House; former principal deputy director of public affairs, Justice Department Catherine E. Lhamon , former assistant secretary for civil rights, Education Department Tiffani Long , former special adviser, Economic Development Administration Latifa Lyles , former director, Women’s Bureau, Labor Department Brenda Mallory , former general counsel, White House Council on Environmental Quality Dominique Mann , former media affairs manager, White House Shelly Marc , former policy adviser, Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, White House Tyra A. Mariani , former chief of staff to the deputy secretary, Education Department Lawrence Mason III , former domestic policy analyst, Office of Presidential Correspondence, White House Dexter L. McCoy , former special assistant, Office of the Secretary, Education Department Matthew McGuire , former U.S. executive director, The World Bank Group Tyrik McKeiver , former senior adviser, State Department Tjada D’Oyen McKenna , former assistant to the administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development Solianna Meaza , former special assistant to associate administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development Mahlet Mesfin , former assistant director for international science and technology, Office of Science and Technology Policy, White House Ricardo Michel , former director, Center for Transformational Partnerships, U.S. Agency for International Development Global Development Lab Paul Monteiro , former associate director, Office of Public Engagement, White House Jesse Moore , former associate director, Office of Public Engagement, White House Shannon Myricks , former specialist, Office of Management and Administration Information Services, White House Melanie Newman , former director of public affairs, Justice Department Fatima Noor , former policy assistant, Domestic Policy Council Bianca Oden , former deputy chief of staff, Agriculture Department Funmi Olorunnipa , former ethics counsel, White House Counsel’s Office Elizabeth Ogunwo , former White House liaison, Peace Corps Stephanie Sprow Owens , former deputy director, Reach Higher, Education Department Denise L. Pease , former regional administrator of the northeast and Caribbean region, General Services Administration Danielle Perry , former special adviser to the assistant secretary, Agriculture Department Allison C. Pulliam , former special assistant, Office of Presidential Personnel, White House Colby Redmond , former advance specialist, Office of the Secretary, Commerce Department Derrick Robinson , former researcher, Office of Communications, White House Lynn M. Ross , former deputy assistant secretary for policy development, Department of Housing and Urban Development Sarah Rutherford , former press and media operations assistant, White House Alexander Sewell , former special assistant, Export-Import Bank Michael Smith , former special assistant to the president and senior director of Cabinet affairs for My Brother’s Keeper, White House Russell F. Smith , former deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Commerce Department Jackeline Stewart , former press secretary, General Services Administration Angela Tennison , former leadership development director, Education Department Kenny Thompson Jr. , former special assistant to the president and director of message events to the vice president, White House Ivory A. Toldson , former executive director, White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Fred Tombar , former senior adviser to the secretary for disaster recovery, Department of Housing and Urban Development Christopher R. Upperman , former assistant administrator for public engagement, Small Business Administration Malik Walker , former senior adviser for congressional and legislative affairs, Office of Personnel Management Jason R.L. Wallace , former director of scheduling and advance, Department of Housing and Urban Development Myesha Ward , former assistant U.S. trade representative for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement Clarence Wardell III , former presidential innovation fellow Benjamin E. Webb , former executive director of policy and planning, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security C’Reda J. Weeden , former executive secretary, Department of Health and Human Services Tonia Wellons , former associate director, Office of Strategic Partnerships, Peace Corps Antonio White , former senior adviser, Treasury Department Monae White , former special projects manager, Education Department Aketa Marie Williams , former director of strategic communications, Office of the Undersecretary, Education Department Jonta Williams , former adviser to the assistant administrator for Africa, U.S. Agency for International Development Jessica Wilson , former special assistant, Office of Policy, Department of Homeland Security Taj Wilson , former deputy associate counsel, White House Candace Wint , former director of advance, Department of Housing and Urban Development Brent C. Woolfork , former managing director, Overseas Private Investment Corporation Tarrah Cooper Wright , former special assistant to the secretary, Department of Homeland Security Ursula Wright , former associate assistant deputy secretary, Education Department Carl Young , former adviser and assistant, Office of Management and Budget, White House Stephanie Young , former senior adviser, Office of Public Engagement, White House David N. Zikusoka , former senior adviser for weapons of mass destruction and nonproliferation, Office of the Vice President, White House The best comments and conversations at The Washington Post, delivered every Friday. Join the conversation. Others cover stories. We uncover them. Limited time offer: Get unlimited digital access for less than $1/week. Already a subscriber? Sign in

We are African Americans, we are patriots, and we refuse to sit idly by

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