FARGO — Although leery for her safety after receiving threats this week for showing support for U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, North Dakota Rep. Ruth Buffalo said she's continuing her work on policies rather than focusing on polarization.
Buffalo and Omar each made history in the November election. Omar was the first Somali-American congresswoman and one of two of the first Muslim women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Buffalo was the first Native American Democrat elected to the North Dakota Legislature.
Omar, a 2011 graduate of North Dakota State University, has recently been accused of making comments characterized as anti-Semitic. While some have responded to the remarks with condemnation, others, like Buffalo, have rallied in support.
“It’s hard to sit and watch someone get attacked, so in turn, now I’m being attacked for sharing my support for her,” said Buffalo, a 2016 graduate of NDSU.
Comments by Omar, a Minneapolis Democrat, insinuated that U.S. support of Israel is fueled by money. Despite apologizing and deleting some of her initial comments on Twitter, she has doubled down on questioning allegiances to Israel, specifically those of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Buffalo, of Fargo, said Omar’s comments were “taken out of context” and “people are focusing on her race and religion versus the intention of her policy questions.”
In the wake of posting on her personal Facebook page support for Omar, Buffalo said people responded with threatening comments, some of which involved her children.
The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition is standing in solidarity with both elected officials. The coalition issued a statement Friday, March 8, condemning some of the criticism directed toward Buffalo.
“The attacks Reps. Omar and Buffalo face as women of color in our current political climate are a distraction to the work they are trying to do for the betterment of not only underrepresented communities but our world community,” the coalition said. "The hateful language used towards Ms. Buffalo and, more specifically, her children is shameful to our state and the media platform on which it was presented. We would condemn any persons using this dangerous language in place of civil conversation on a political issue on which there is much divide."
Buffalo told The Forum that she plans to travel to Washington, D.C., next week to advocate for policies on missing and murdered indigenous women. She said she will testify in favor of legislation to protect indigenous women.
"I will continue to stand against injustice," she said. "I hope people stay engaged and focus on the issues that truly matter versus making this about race and religion."