The first Black woman elected to the House of Representatives from Connecticut was the victim of racist attacks from trolls during a Zoom meeting for her reelection campaign.
Rep. Jahana Hayes experienced the so-called “Zoombombing” on Monday, Oct. 12, during virtual meeting with some of her constituents in Newtown. The first-term congresswoman outlined the experience in an Oct. 13 Medium post titled “I Am Not Ok.” According to the blog post, three meetings went off without a hitch before the first troll began to harass her.
“Our fourth meeting starts, and about 10 minutes in- I hear ‘Jahana Hayes is a N-word.’ I pause- not sure how to react, but I catch a glimpse of all the faces of the people who have joined the meeting,” Hayes wrote. “They are mortified, shocked, embarrassed, hurt and I could tell they didn’t know what to do next. They are all waiting to see what I do.”
Hayes put on a brave face while her communications staff got rid of the offender. As soon as they got rid of the first person, another participant started blasting offensive music.
“I continue to speak and this happens again, from another participant. Only this time it’s the N-word on a loop set to music,” she recalled.
After the second troublemaker was removed, two more people said, “shut up N-word.” Hayes believes the group was part of “a coordinated effort.”
“Six minutes of vile, disgusting, dare I say deplorable, hate- and I am on full display as I process, in real time, what is happening.”
Hayes also discussed the incident on Twitter, where she posted screenshots from the meeting’s chatroom. The pictures show a person repeatedly saying “shut up nigger go pick your cotton” under the screen name Kenneth Rubio. Two others identified in the chatroom as Melinda Juzman and Ryan Connelly posted messages praising President Donald Trump.
After the meeting was over, Hayes checked on her staff and citizens who attended the meeting to ensure they were not too shaken by the inflammatory messages. The congresswoman admitted she was struggling in the aftermath of the Zoom attack.
“Many will question why I would post something so raw and offensive? It is because I realized in that moment that I am not ok. I am not ok that this happened,” Hayes wrote. “I am not ok, that this is not the first time this has happened in my life or that I’ve had to explain that this happens. I am not ok, that I have to post a screenshot to prove it happened.”
Hayes argued that Black women are often expected to bury their own pain for the sake of others.
“Black women are expected to press on, to ignore this behavior; to not talk explicitly about it because it is uncomfortable, divisive or does not reflect the sentiments of most people,” she wrote. “I have watched other women weather this storm and fend off these types of attacks and wonder if in their quiet places they have felt what I am feeling right now. We have become numb to this behavior, instinct kicks in and we just move on.”
The incident was reported to the FBI and Capitol Police, NBC Connecticut reported.