In the chaos of the Trump administration, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has quickly become one of my role models. Time and time again, Waters has been unapologetically crisp and honest about the administration.
On Aug. 1, during a Financial Services Committee meeting, Waters came prepared with questions for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because his office had not responded to a letter about Trump’s financial ties with Russia. Instead of answering her question, Mnuchin tried to run the clock by filling the space with compliments and unnecessary comments, but Waters did not come to play. Following House procedural rules, Waters killed Mnuchin’s chatter simply by saying “reclaiming my time.”
The moment is satisfying because it’s something we can all relate to. How many times have you asked someone a direct question that they didn’t want to answer, so they beat around the bush? It’s a frustrating experience that usually exhausts me and leads to a stalemate. Time is valuable and is something none of us can get back, so to waste mine is unforgivable. As a woman of color, it speaks to a common pattern of disregarding our concerns and our sense of urgency.
As a journalist, my goal is to get to the objective truth, and yet sometimes, sources try to avoid this by filling up time with fallacies and deflection, but the truth is inevitable. It is bound to come out.
Whether it be in a social, academic or professional setting, your time is worth being reclaimed. It’s easy to get stuck in a routine of doing something because that’s the way it’s always been done. Waters’s interaction with Mnuchin is not an uncommon experience for female politicians, seen in this election cycle when Trump consistently spoke over Hilary Clinton and even infamously deemed her a “nasty woman.”
Waters’s iconic moment was inspirational, and “reclaiming my time” has become almost a mantra of sorts — not only when handling conflict, but with prioritization. For a long time, I have had trouble saying no. As a woman of color, I’ve often felt the need to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. So when there’s a project that needs attention or someone that needs help, it’s hard for me to put the needs of my own above the needs of others. It’s an empathetic mindset that has helped me become aware of others’ problems, but often leads to burnout.
Waters, keep doing what you do. There is something here that we can all learn from you. It is invaluable to take your power back, because in the end, redirecting that energy toward something productive is essential to progress.