Trump’s racist tweets trouble Gwinnett County’s legislators of color

ajc | 7/18/2019 | Staff
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Brenda Lopez Romero was about 12 years old when she and her father stopped at a diner just north of Helen.

As they walked in, several white men stood up from their table.

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“Are you lost?” they said. “Did you just cross the river?”

Then that phrase: “You need to go back where you came from.”

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A native of Mexico, Lopez Romero remembers the sting of those racist taunts.

“You’re made felt to feel unsafe being where you belong,” she said last week. “That is part of the chord that it strikes when you hear these words.”

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Lopez Romero, now a 36-year-old immigration attorney, state representative from Gwinnett County and candidate for U.S. Congress, says she never thought she would hear similar language coming from the President of the United States.

But last Sunday, Donald Trump used Twitter to tell four Congresswomen of color to “go back” to the countries from which they came. It was a stunning remark given that all four — Democratic U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib — are American citizens and all but Omar were born in the United States.

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Trump’s racist tweets sparked painful conversations in many immigrant and minority communities across the country. That’s particularly true in Gwinnett County, the northeast Atlanta suburb where Lopez Romero is among a growing number of political leaders who felt inclined to share their stories.

Gwinnett is a community where a full quarter of its nearly 1 million residents are foreign-born and about two-thirds are black, Latino or Asian — and where a longtime Republican foothold is quickly diminishing, meaning comments like Trump’s tweets could have an enormous effect during a 2020 election season that’s sure to be volatile and racially charged.

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That season will include the presidential race and the crucial contest for Georgia’s 7th Congressional district, which was the closest...
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