WASHINGTON – As a child of former sharecroppers, Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland's representative, is no stranger to brutal discussions about race. But when a fiery young Democrat almost on Wednesday accused the conservative Republican of racism, the uncomfortable truce negotiated by Mr. Cummings placed him at the center of a raw debate about race and sex in a changing House. .
The heated exchange took place at the end of Wednesday's explosive audience of the House Oversight Committee, with Michael D. Cohen. After Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, appointed a black political representative of President Trump to prove that Mr. Trump is not racist, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, said: She described as racist for "using a black woman accessory in this room, in this committee. "
Mr. Meadows, his face red and tearful, demanded that Ms. Tlaib's words be "withdrawn" – struck from the record as a violation of the rules of the House – and Mr. Cummings asked Ms. Tlaib to explain it. She apologized. Then the questions started.
"What emotions do we put first?" Said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a close ally of Ms. Tlaib, a member of the monitoring committee and witness to the meeting. "We had to apologize for being hurt as a result of her comments and denunciation of a racist practice," but Ms. Tlaib was also "hurt and no excuse was provided to her."
The root, a race-based website, went one step further: "The management of Tlaib by Cummings yesterday is part of a bigger problem that the Democratic Party is meeting with this new class of women of color: Democrats want women of color in Congress, but they can not. seem to be treating their truth, "writes Terrell Jermaine Starr, adding," He ruined everything and yet has to apologize to Tlaib – publicly, otherwise Republicans will listen to Meadows and cry a river of white tears every time woman of color dares to call them for racism. "
The episode highlighted who Mr. Cummings is and how he wants to lead his committee. On Thursday, many of her colleagues – including Ms. Ocasio-Cortez – came to her defense, saying that he had handled a difficult situation well by preventing a large and historic audience from derailing.
But outside the Capitol, the critics were less kind. Critics were furious that Mr. Cummings called Mr. Meadows "one of my best friends" and resurfaced several times. Videos of the 2012 campaign showing Mr. Meadows that he intended to send President Barack Obama "to his home in Kenya or elsewhere."
Beyond this mishap, the Cohen Hearing has brought to light, at the national level, a new generation of young Democrats, many of whom are women of color, who are forcing sharp conversations about race and abandoning non-existent protocols. Decorum writings such as their elders – often agree with them – do not have it.
"You must testify, witness to the truth," said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and Civil Rights Icon, who applauded young women of color for throwing himself into what he likes call "good problems, necessary problems".
"This body will continue to change as more and more people come from diverse backgrounds," said Mr. Lewis. "America is changing. We all need to get on board. "
But a generational gap could widen, especially with some African-American seniors who have been in the House for decades. "I think that they certainly bring a different perspective in some ways," said Danny K. Davis, Democrat of Illinois representative. "I think the wording is sometimes a little different. The level of what might be called "professional civility" may be a little different, but I think that people express the same feelings and say the same thing in many ways. "
For the House Republican Conference, which is 90% white and male, some uncomfortable moments are inevitable. Meadows called the "Bircher" videos of "the old news" on Thursday and said he had previously apologized. He also seemed to reconcile with Ms. Tlaib; both shared a hug and a seemingly cordial conversation in the House.
"She said she did not think so yesterday, so there was no need to apologize," he told reporters afterward. "I wanted her to know, and she wanted me to know, that our relationship will be one that, hopefully, will yield very good results in the future."
Mr. Meadows and Ms. Tlaib are political and cultural opposites. Mr. Meadows, 59, an affluent property developer, is the chair of House Freedom Caucus and one of Trump's most ardent advocates on Capitol Hill.
Ms. Tlaib, 42, made headlines on her first day in office after being captured on video using descriptive jargon to describe Trump as she spoke of her desire to remove him. A lawyer in Detroit, a lawyer and advocate of social justice, she is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and one of the first two Muslim women in Congress.
She did not respond to an interview request on Thursday. Mr. Cummings dismissed the questions. "I will not talk about it," he said. "I think we managed to solve it. I think we're done with civility. "
The Congress, of course, has struggled with race issues for most of its existence, and debates during the human rights era have been bitter and passionate. But the rise of Mr. Trump, who referred to a former black aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman, as a "dog" and said there were "very good people on both sides" of the White Supremacy March 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, which profoundly transformed Washington's conversation about the race of Ms. Tlaib and other color legislators.
"As representatives of communities on the sidelines of how the president defines his vision of America, I think that they bring an urgency and emotional depth to their rhetoric that is not only academic, "said representative Ro Khanna, California Democrat, who was also present for the Tlaib-Meadows exchange. "It's a lived experience."
Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, a liberal organization that helped in the election of Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, described Ms. Tlaib as "one of the new generation democrats who will to break the silence even when uncomfortable. "
Mr. Meadows expected Mr. Cohen, former Trump's personal attorney, to describe the president as racist, which is why he asked the person appointed to the position, Lynne Patton from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will attend the meeting. When it was his turn to speak, he asked him to stand up, then he spoke in his favor, saying that she had not agreed with Mr. Cohen and that he was not going to talk to him. "It was impossible for her to work for a racist individual".
Ms. Tlaib was incredulous: "The fact that a person uses an accessory, a black woman in the House and on the committee, is a racist act in its own right."
Another Democratic representative from Michigan, Brenda Lawrence, an African-American representative, said it was "totally insulting" for Mr. Meadows to "support a member of our entire race".
Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, a black Massachusetts Democrat, asked Mr. Cohen if it was possible for Mr. Trump to "have a black friend and still be racist", which to which he replied: "Yes".
In fact, the only Democrats to call Mr. Meadows were women of color. The men of color of the committee, such as Mr. Khanna and the representative Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, held their tongue.
Although Mr. Cummings may have wanted to put an end to the affair, the exchanges reverberated inside and outside the Capitol.
"I think he handled the situation in the way he felt was best for him and the committee at the time," said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of Black PAC, which mobilizes black voters. "He is the chair of the committee and part of that role is to facilitate and mediate between members."
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez acquiesced, stating that she felt that Mr. Cummings had "reason for the procedure" and "was trying to do everything in his power to protect" Mrs. Tlaib to be reprimanded. But, she added, women of color often face disparate treatment at work.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, "At the end of the day, one person was apologized and one did not, and two people were injured."