Two Bronx Latinas in the Spotlight

Jan 25, 2019
3:43 PM
Originally published at Medium

Cardi B (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for iHeartMedia), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

They are both Latinas. Both from the Bronx. They are young. They are outspoken. They are proud. They are self-made. They came up the hard way. They push back. The similarities continue, but the differences are many.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known as AOC, is a new member of Congress and at 29, the youngest in history, and a Democratic Socialist. Since her 2018 primary victory, she has become a “media darling,” capturing headlines with candid comments on the issues of the day.

Cardi B is a former exotic dancer and now a pop singer who is admired, or reviled, because of her talent, her crude language and displays of her body. Her outspoken views, pop music and candor have gained her an Instagram following of more than 40 million.

Twitter erupted after a recent Cardi B Instagram post (edited for brevity): “I remind you it’s been over 3 weeks. Trump is summoning government workers to go back to work without pay. Now, I don’t want to hear that Obama shut the government for 17 days. Yes, but it was for health care. I know some don’t care because you don’t work for the government; but this is serious. It’s crazy. We are in a hell hole and it’s over a wall. We need to act. I don’t know what type of action, as it’s not my area. But I’m scared. I feel bad for these people who work without pay.”

Cardi’s video has gotten over 17 million views, and it keeps getting views. Absent her profanity, it would have had more. U.S. Senators Brian Schwartz of Hawaii and Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted that while they think her message is accurate, they were hesitant to retweet. Neither explained why, but it’s clear that they were uncomfortable with the star’s vulgarity.

Schwartz and Murphy combined have under a million followers. Cardi has 4.5 million followers. So, Cardi’s voice reaches far more people. Her messages have more impact.

Of Dominican/Trinidadian descent, she is informed and intelligent (like fellow Bronx native Ocasio-Cortez), seeing through the nonsense in Washington. In her 60-second video, she said that former President Obama shut down the government, but that he did it for universal healthcare. It doesn’t take a college degree to understand the importance of health care nor to empathize with employees who are forced to work without pay. She concluded by saying, “I’m scared.”

Shortly after the video went viral, Cardi B and Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren exchanged Twitter posts. Lahren, also age 26, is white and college educated and is most recognized for her conservative views and racist outbursts on social media.

The Twitter exchange:

It got 23K likes.

It got 850K likes.

This received 31K likes.

This received 818K likes.

This sparked another Twitter conversation:

This got 510K likes.

Another user backed her: “Do your kids go to public school, subsidies for the family health insurance, roads, eat any food products subsidized by the government?………”

Lahren replied, saying, “You do realize these high taxes you complain about are the bedrock of the Democratic Party, right? If you want lower taxes and more economic freedom, beware of the party you are rooting for.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chimed in:

That got 194K likes.

Just 21K likes.

These exchanges exemplify today’s vicious discourse. Tired of the “wall” debate, Americans show more concern for other issues. For example, Cardi mentioned taxes and healthcare. And Ocasio-Cortez has spoken of her proposal for a 70 percent tax rate for those earning more than $10 million per year. She explains what most overlook: The rate would apply to income above $10 million and this rate existed decades ago.

Cardi’s video and the tweets it prompted brought to light the intersection of race, ethnicity and class. They occurred as most of us commemorated Martin Luther King Day. How would Dr. King have commented on issues that these two similar, different and proud Bronx-born Latinas are courageously addressing? More to come, to be sure.

Maybe Donald Trump watched Cardi’s video, because as of Friday afternoon, the government was opened again for three weeks.

Cue up the next Cardi B video with an AOC cameo because there’s still work to be done.


Elizabeth S. Roldán is a freelancer/researcher/Nuyorican from the Bronx. She has a B.A. from Binghamton University and an M.A. in Liberal Arts from Georgetown University. She tweets from @elizabethsrold.