Well, Auntie Maxine did it again. She put language to our thoughts and feelings during a hearing with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who attempted to run out the clock instead of answering her direct question…”Why have you not replied to the letter the House Financial Services Committee sent you?” Mnuchin thought he could evade Congresswoman Waters questions by flattering her and restating questions but she was having none of it. She told the Secretary that she did not need to hear how great she was. She wanted an answer to her question. When Mnuchin attempted to continue to delay and defer Congresswoman Maxine uttered the line every Black woman I know decided was going to be her tag line…”I’m reclaiming my time!” Procedurally, Congresswoman Waters was letting the Secretary and the Committee Chairman know that her time would not be frittered away by his stalling tactics. The rules allow her a specific amount of time and Mnuchin was trying to treat the hearing like the last 24 seconds in a basketball game when the team with the ball is up by one point. He was playing a game of “keep away” but Congresswoman Waters had her eye squarely on the game clock and cried foul by repeatedly saying, “I’m reclaiming my time!” In other words, “I will NOT be denied!” Congresswoman Maxine Waters taught us several things during that interaction that are more than “meme worthy!” They are things every Black woman should remember:
Operate With No Fear: As a member of the minority party I think Congresswoman Waters’ opposition expects her to be afraid of them. But, that has never been her style. She came out of the inauguration “guns a blazing.” She did not attend the inauguration, the parade, or the parties. She stated unequivocally, “I don’t honor him, I don’t respect him, and I don’t want to be involved with him!” Auntie Maxine was not worried about the repercussions of the opposing party. She was not going to be lukewarm and play that “respectability” game that some on the members on her side of the aisle are attempting to play. She remembers how cold-blooded and mean-spirited people like Joe Wilson and Mitch McConnell were to President Obama, right out of the box. It didn’t hurt them and she is letting them know that two can play that game. When we allow people to bully and cower us we give them power. When we are clear we are not going to be afraid, they back down because bullies are always searching for the weak.
Maintain Fidelity: Congresswoman Maxine Waters has represented her district in the Watts section of California since 1991. Before that she was a member of the California Assembly (beginning in 1976). She has consistently represented the dispossessed and down trodden. She is not afraid to call herself a political liberal and she has carried the water for liberal causes for a very long time. She does not change with the wind. Similarly, Black women have to be clear re: what we stand for and what we will NOT stand for. In her interaction with Mnuchin Maxine Waters was saying, “You are NOT going to clown me. I need you to answer my question!” If we are going to be women of integrity we have to maintain fidelity to those things that matter to our sisters, our brothers, our families, and our communities. Maintaining fidelity is rarely expedient. It means we sometimes have to stand on the side of right even when we find ourselves standing all alone.
Don’t Tolerate Foolishness: My millennials, Gen X and Y folks have another way of saying this. However, my identity as a Christian doesn’t allow me to articulate it in their way. But they would say Auntie Maxine has no “foolishness” to give. Secretary Mnuchin thought he could get around the hard questions by flattering Congresswoman Waters. When she said, “Don’t tell me how great I am,” we could have (as my mama used to say), “bought Mnuchin for a quarter!” He thought he could offer up some “sweet words” to catch her off guard. Perhaps he thought she’d say to herself, “Well, he’s not such a bad guy. Let me give him the benefit of the doubt!” No indeed, Auntie Maxine did not have any foolishness to give. How often do we tolerate foolishness in our lives? We’re trying to get a raise because we’re working harder (and better) than anyone else but the supervisor, manager, or department chair is telling us something about how nice we dress. We need to find out how our children are doing in school and the teacher tells us how nicely behaved our baby is. We know that! We sent him/her to school nice. What does s/he know or not know? How can I help him/her improve? We’re trying to figure out what is going on in our relationship and our partner starts out with, “But babe you gotta understand how hard it is out here…” It’s hard out here for us too. That doesn’t give them license to play you. No, Auntie Maxine has been clear. Do not tolerate foolishness.
When we begin to operate without fear, maintain fidelity, and stop tolerating foolishness we are reclaiming our time and the next time somebody starts “talking out the side of their neck” when you are trying to get a straight answer you just say, “Reclaiming my time…reclaiming my time!”
Stay Black & Smart!