Interview: Congresswoman Maxine Waters

New Generation, Same Ol’ Racism

This interview was originally publish on July 3, 2017 and has been updated.

Representative Maxine Waters is a light. As she came up the escalator to me the media area, everyone paused. It was her. Her bodyguard advised that there no scheduled interviews for the day and she was there strictly for photos and festivities. Do you think that stopped anyone? Before I could even gather my notebook and camera, I could barely find her. She’d been swallowed up by journalist wielding professional cameras and microphones. I had neither. But I was going to wait my turn.

Rule of journalism #11, never wait your turn. 

And suddenly, as if she were waiting for me, she peaked her head around a gentleman and looked directly at me and said “are you just going to stand there and let these men hop in front of you? Come here”… I could’ve fainted. But I had to hit the switch. A few seconds earlier I was intimidate and extremely frustrated. Now I had to be a journalist. I had a few questions already written. This was my moment.

SJ: Before I ask you anything else, I have to know, how do you feel about being an “auntie” to an entire generation of young, Black people?

MW: *laughs* I love it. Some people on the Internet have read too deeply into it and are trying to turn it into something negative, but I love it!

SJ: We call you auntie out of respect and admiration.

MW: I know. Aunties are always the favorite family member in the Black family.

SJ: So, what do you think about the turnout of young people in the past election? And what are your opinions on the new Commander-In-Chief?

MW: I’m so proud. The fact that you all even care so much really filled my heart. There’s nothing I want more than to see younger people active and involved.

SJ: What about the people who say we haven’t experienced true struggles?

MW: Are you kidding me? You know exactly what racism looks like. Maybe you didn’t go to a segregated school. But I’m sure that you’ve lived in a segregated community. These things aren’t done blatantly anymore. Your generation is dealing with undercover, sneaky racism. It’s harder to detect so I applaud younger people for facing it.

SJ:… and your feelings about Donald Trump

MW: *the auntie stare*

And almost on queue, her bodyguard signaled to wrap it up, she was needed on Radio Row. Our short interaction literally made my day. I asked her questions about the political climate, but it was her very first words to me that I will never forget! 

A journalist from Clark Atlanta was nice enough to record a portion of my interview. 

Recently, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) accused Rep. Maxine Waters D-Calif. of trying to divide Americans. And in true auntie fashion, she defended herself. She was articulate, sassy and straight to the point. It reminded me of our encounter at Essence. I could almost feel her saying to me “remember, never let people talk over you or walk in front of you. Mean what you say, and say what you mean”. 

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