The Significance of Kamala Harris
People have a problem with Kamala Harris. And now as she accepts the democratic nomination for Vice President, people have an even bigger problem.
The Black gender gap in politics is a real thing. In the 2016 election, Trump received 13 percent of the Black male vote, but only 4 percent of Black women voted for him. So, as we look to the upcoming election in November, many are wondering if Kamala Harris’ presence could play against us.
One thing we thought we’d never see in our lifetime was a Black president. Yet, in 2008, Barack Obama not only was elected but reelected for a second term. He gave us hope – something we hadn’t witnessed in a long time. During his presidency, he managed to, among other things, develop an unprecedented health care system, as well as capture and kill Osama Bin Laden.
In eight years, we started to feel as though America had finally woke up. We were progressing towards something meaningful for our future. So, when the stakes boiled down to Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016, I for one had no doubt we would have our first woman president.
The reality of that not happening was difficult. What did we do? All of the progress that had been made very quickly went down the drain. And it’s been hell ever since.
Many Black women are overjoyed that Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris. Yet, him selecting any Black woman – Stacey Abrams, Karen Bass, Keisha Lance Bottoms – would have been enough. Black women were finally seeing their equal status in the nation.
Black men? Not so much. Their concerns stem from Harris’ career as a prosecutor that disproportionately ensnared Black men. There’s been a harsh light on her past, and it’s been difficult for them to get past it.
Even during the selection process, it is rumored that Biden’s camp viewed her as “too ambitious”. Has Biden’s efforts ever been viewed as such? No, they haven’t.
In addition to her previous career, Black men seem to have an issue with her interracial marriage and view it as a detriment. Former rapper Luke Campbell, who ran for Miami-Dade County Mayor in 2011 wrote, “For better or worse, black men don’t want to vote for a black woman who married a white man.”
Sounds ignorant and callous, right? Sounds like we’re grasping at straws and not even giving Harris the benefit of the doubt. We’re searching for reasons not to support this Black woman, and it comes from a place of misogyny, sexism, and racism. Interestingly enough, after his statement, Campbell and Harris sat down for a conversation. He ended up endorsing her in the Florida primary. “I’m a man,” he said. “I can say I made a mistake.”
I admit that when Kamala Harris threw her name into the presidential candidate hat, I was skeptical. I had a problem with her” Top Cop” reputation, staying quiet on issues she should have spoken up about, mass incarceration of Black men, and that truancy law which seemed to undermine the family unit.
But then reality hit me. Am I going to dwell on her past and tear her down in the process, or reconcile with her past and support this Black woman as she makes history? Not only that, but her representation speaks volumes for those who do not have a voice. And we can’t ignore all of the good she has done as a California Senator.
In 2004, upon being sworn in as a prosecutor, Kamala Harris stated that she became a prosecutor to change the system from the inside. She’s owned up to how she could have handled things differently in the past, and has been fighting hard in the Senate. We’ve seen first hand how tenacious she can be during senate hearings, as well as the debate stage. She also comprised one of the most progressive records on criminal justice reform, including co-sponsoring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
Although it is a different time, Kamala Harris speaks more about racial injustice than President Obama did during his first presidential campaign – and he won 95 percent of the Black male vote.
So, where do we go from here?
We have to realize that this moment is not about us. Kamala Harris’ nomination is a win for all Americans of all races and genders. Black women have always cheered each other on, able to see the big picture and greater good. Hopefully, Black men will be able to do the same.