In our inaugural episode of Majority Minority, Cecilia Muñoz, a longtime immigration advocate and former director of the Domestic Policy Council in the Obama White House, talks about losing friends who couldn't understand her new role defending her boss' deportation policy.
And she opens up about being terrified of what she describes as “white supremacist” sentiment in the new White House. She is, she says, worried for her family.
Majority Minority is a new podcast about the rising power and influence of people of color in Washington - and why it matters to people around the country. White House Correspondent Franco Ordoñez and Congressional Correspondent Bill Douglas talk with the African-American, Hispanic-American, Indian-American, and other leaders of color about what it took them to get to, and survive in, this cut-throat city.
The interviews are personal, honest, and at times raw as guests open up about their personal experiences and the conversations they have at home about confronting stereotypes and discrimination.
Muñoz, the daughter of Bolivian immigrants, was told to dress well when she got to Washington so she wouldn’t be confused with a farm worker. She was told immigrant advocates like herself couldn’t afford to have typos in what they wrote or people would think she couldn’t speak English. And despite being born and raised in Detroit, a U.S. Senator once complimented her on her ability to speak English.
A long-time immigration advocate who received a MacArthur “genius” award for her work, Muñoz recalls a friend asking former President Barack Obama “how do you sleep at night.” He told her he didn’t. Later that afternoon, he asked Muñoz to meet with him.
“I got summoned to the Oval Office and he just wanted to check if I was okay. Because he knew it was hard for me too,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz talks about working in a White House at warp speed to suddenly being a private citizen and how hard its been for her to watch the Trump administration try to dismantle they legacy she worked so hard to help build.
She almost cringes thinking that the man whose new job most closely resembles her old one was the architect of the highly controversial travel ban that would limit travel from six majority-Muslim countries. The ban is currently locked up in the courts. “I am beyond alarmed that the people with what can only be described as white supremacist views working in that building,” Muñoz said. “I’m shocked by that. But as an American I need them to succeed on the stuff that keeps us safe. And they’re not on that trajectory.”
For the first time ever, she admits to be a little concerned about her family, especially her husband, a long-time U.S. citizen of Indian decent. Last year, someone told him “to get out of this country.” He had never had that kind of experience in his three decades in the United States. She was reminded of the encounter earlier this year when a Kansas gunman killed an Indian engineer and saying almost the same thing.
“I think about it all the time, because, look, the Indian American who was shot in that bar was shot on the basis of what he looks like,” Muñoz said. “And I think the only difference between in that encounter and My husband and I had as there was no gun. Unfortunately, the people who have no reason to be afraid are afraid right now.”