During an appearance last Friday at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the latest Democrat politician to don blackface, in her case with an exaggerated drawl rather than shoe polish. Before a predominantly black audience, Ocasio-Cortez declaimed, “This is what organizing looks liiike! This is what building power looks liiike! This is what changing the country loooks liiike!” As her speech progressed, the stereotypically southern and black affectation grew even more pronounced.
“Y’know, Reverend, you bring up a funny anecdooote,” she drawled. “I’m proud to be a bar-ten-derrr. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that! There’s nothing wrong with working retaaail, folding clothes for other people to buyyy! There is nothing wronnng with preparing the fooood that your neighbors will eat.” The incident quickly drew comparisons to Hillary Clinton’s infamous caricature of a black accent during a 2007 campaign stop in Selma, Alabama, when the then-candidate declared, “I don’t feeel no ways tiiiiired.”
Ocasio-Cortez blamed the jarring incident on her allegedly hardscrabble upbringing. She was merely “code-switching,” she insisted—that is, reverting from her polished public cadence to her authentic, personal accent. “As much as the right [sic] wants to distort & deflect, I am from the Bronx. I act & talk like it, *especially* when I’m fired up and especially when I’m home,” Ocasio-Cortez distorted and deflected.
CNN’s Don Lemon defended her excuse. “She’s from the Bronx. If you are from the Bronx, you have hung out with black people, and that is not the first time she has used that accent.”