Congressional Democrats were slammed for wearing Kente cloth during an event aimed at honoring George Floyd.
Approximately two dozen Democrats were present, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and they knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds at the Capitol's Emancipation Hall to pay tribute to Floyd. Most of them wore Kente cloths to the event, and on the subsequent news conference.
However, the lawmakers were slammed for using traditional African clothing as a political prop.
Jade Bentil, a Ghanaian-Nigerian University of Oxford researcher, called the move performative.
"My ancestors did not invent Kente cloth for them to be worn by publicity (obsessed) politicians as 'activism' in 2020," Bentil tweeted.
Critics echoed Bantil’s words, and individuals from the entertainment and journalism worlds slammed the lawmakers for using the cloth as a political prop.
"Standing in front of a church and holding up a bible you never read for a photo op is no different than kneeling in kente cloth you never wear for a photo op," Charles Robinson, a Yahoo sports reporter, tweeted, referring to President Donald Trump’s photo-op at St. John's Episcopal Church.
"What if they, like, just passed some laws instead of dressing up like a Wakandan chess set?" screenwriter Eric Haywood wrote.
Rep. Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, stated that the white lawmakers had donned the cloths as an act of solidarity.
"The significance of the Kente cloth is our African heritage. And for those of you without that heritage, we're acting in solidarity. That is the significance of the Kente cloth – our origins and respecting our pasts," Bass said.
Bass unveiled the "Justice in Policing Act of 2020" at the press conference. The bill aims to address police brutality in the country, and includes a ban on chokeholds as well as the creation of a National Police Misconduct Registry. It also incentivizes states and local officials to include racial bias training and teach officers about their "duty to intervene," and other things.
However, the bill is expected to face strong resistance, particularly from republicans as well as officials who are not thrilled by Washington disrupting their policy making.