Petula Dvorak: Mayor Bowser and black women are going after Trump. And they're winning.

Summary: Black women — long the most powerful voting block in America — are showing their strength and demanding to be heard.

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Petula Dvorak

It is a clapback so mighty, it can be seen by satellites.

When our frightened, authoritarian president tried to silence protests against police brutality and racism last week by militarizing the streets of Washington — the city where he bunkers, but doesn't actually live — D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D, hit back with a fierce message.

She authorized city workers to paint "BLACK LIVES MATTER" in traffic-safety yellow letters large enough to be seen from space. And she renamed the spot where peaceful protesters were gassed, hit with rubber bullets and forcefully removed so President Donald Trump could have a meaningless photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church.

So Trump now lives behind more than a mile of fencing, right in front of Black Lives Matter Plaza. Google maps already made the change.



Trump is having his bell rung in the language he speaks — huge public gestures. And Bowser isn't the only black woman shaming the president. That posse includes PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Kamala D. Harris, D-Calif.

On Saturday, Bowser strolled out to her 16th Street NW political masterpiece in mom-leggings and a T-shirt to address the protesters.

"Welcome to Black Lives Matter Plaaaaazzzzah," she said, as a sea of peaceful protesters cheered around her.

This was Bowser coming into her own as a national political figure.

When Trump tried to take control of the D.C. police department and put active-duty military on the streets of her hometown, she explained to the crowd, she blocked him in honor of her 2-year-old daughter, Miranda.

"I want her to grow up and know that her mother had a chance to say no, and she did," she said. "If he can take over Washington, D.C., he can come for any state. And none of us will be safe. So today, we pushed the Army away from our city. Our soldiers should not be treated that way. They should not be asked to move on American citizens."

Then, she hit him with a perfect, election-season slogan:


"Today we say no. In November, we say next."

And social media went wild, suggesting her as the best pick for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for vice president to run against Trump.

The woman Trump had considered for his ticket four years ago also served him a shame sandwich over the weekend.

"I'm not advising the president," Rice said Sunday on "Face the Nation," "but if I were, I would say let's put tweeting aside for a little bit and — and talk to us, have a conversation with us. And I think we need that. And I think he can do it."

In other words, Put the Twitter Down. Can we paint that in yellow, too?

The woman who may be a vice presidential candidate in this election, Harris, also scolded Trump when he tried to invoke George Floyd's name in a news conference about employment numbers.

Trump had said: "Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that's happening for our country. It's a great day for him, it's a great day for everybody."

To that, Harris tweeted: "Keep George Floyd's name out of your mouth until you can say Black Lives Matter."



Few people trigger the flailing president the way Alcindor does. The journalist manages to unhinge Trump by simply doing her job, asking serious questions, as White House reporters have been doing for decades.

But she's doing it while black. And female.

He shushed her over the weekend and snapped: "You're something," when she tried to ask a question about unemployment figures.

Check out this exchange from March — an HR nightmare in any other setting — when she wanted to ask him about personal protective equipment as the pandemic was spreading.

Trump: "Why don't you act in a little more positive . . ."

Alcindor: "My question to you is . . . "

Trump: "It's always . . . getcha, getcha . . . And you know what? That's why nobody trusts the media anymore . . ."


Alcindor: "My question to you is how is this going to impact . . ."

Trump: "Excuse me. You didn't hear me. That's why you used to work for the Times and now you work for someone else. Look, let me tell you something: Be nice . . ."

Alcindor: "Mr. President, my question is . . ."

Trump: "Don't be threatening. Be nice. Go ahead."

He can't stand it. He absolutely cannot deal with a smart, accomplished black woman doing her job.

It's not hard to bring out the worst in Trump. But black women do it well by simply being who they are. And speaking the truth.

Bowser, Rice, Harris and Alcindor are marshaling the power they have, using the platforms, access and respect they have accrued. They are inspiration and fuel.

Bowser's Black Lives Matter display is being copied in cities, including a huge "End Racism Now" message in Raleigh, N.C.


Black women — long the most powerful voting block in America — are showing their strength and demanding to be heard.

And it's about time America gave them the respect they've earned.

Michelle Obama — your turn to take on Trump.

Petula Dvorak is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about community and social issues.


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