Senator Kamala Harris is the first woman of Black and South Asian descent to become a Vice Presidential nominee. The magnitude of this moment couldn’t be more monumental. It’s bad enough that we are still going through a global pandemic with COVID-19 that hasn’t shown any real sign of slowing down as we barrel into the second wave. We are also experiencing a heightening and broader social awareness of another pandemic, which is racism and white supremacy. As Senator Harris goes through the debate process with the current Vice President Mike Pence, I’m truly humbled by what is weighing on her shoulders and more importantly, what is at stake.
After the debacle that was the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden, the debate between Senator Harris and Vice President Mike Pence carries much gravitas. The world will be watching the two potential future Presidents of the United States as both Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be the oldest Presidents to serve no matter which one of them wins. So there is a lot riding on this contest as we will get a sense of what their replacements’ temperaments would be like as the leader of the free world. Of course, the spotlight is on Senator Harris. Being the first Black woman nominated to this post, she is under severe scrutiny. In the recent reporting I’ve heard leading up to this night, there were several references to her not wanting to come off as the “angry black woman” or as “too aggressive” as we know these are stereotypical tropes that racist and prejudice people, mostly white, use towards Black women of colour. I find myself (not surprisingly) frustrated that instead of the media focusing on Senator Harris’ record and some of the challenges she may have because of her past positions and sentencing recommendations, we find ourselves focused on the colour of her skin and her emotional state.
Listening to white pundits on the news is entertaining at most and maddening at the least for some Black people; those who even watch the news anymore. It’s always fascinating to me how a group of individuals who do not understand what it is like to be Black in America want Black people to “stop bringing up the subject of race all the time.” They fail to understand that it is embedded in every interaction people of colour have with Caucasian people because most white people have certain biases, either positive or negative about us. You come in to the conversation with us already with your preconceived notions of who and what we are; therefore it sometimes makes it very difficult to properly engage or have meaningful conversations when one side has already decided the value and worth of the other as being lesser than. Trying to change the minds and perceptions of how some white people view the Black community is, in my humble opinion, a study in futility. Not because Caucasian people as a whole are all bad; but rather because as a whole, they refuse to acknowledge the painful and ugly truths about their past and the reasons why they have the station in life they do. They refuse as a whole to acknowledge that as a result of the inhumane actions of their ancestors, they have and continue to reap the benefits of slavery. That idea for most white people is the hardest to wrap their minds around which is why they do not seek out the information that is readily available that confirms all of this. Instead, they say things like “we don’t want to look at the past; we only want to look at the future and solutions.”
Respectfully, that is bullshit. You cannot create solutions for a problem that you don’t understand fully and have not identified the root of. If all lives truly mattered, then the people who spew that in retaliation to anyone that says Black Lives Matter would be just as angry and would join us in our protests as they would feel the same level of outrage. Instead, what we get is hatred, indifference, ignorance, condescension and ridicule. But as we know, they don’t truly understand that because all lives matter, Black lives matter. And women’s lives matter. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly under the law and that is what Black communities are fighting for across the country. This is one of the many reasons Senator Harris’ representation is so very important at a time like this in America. She constitutes the voice of the Black community in the White House and a powerful member who is going to help further the Black agenda, which includes comprehensive prison and healthcare reform. She is also going to fight for women and do everything in her power to protect Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
It is not lost on me by any stretch of the imagination how much pressure and weight is on the shoulders of Senator Harris. She is representing two very diverse, marginalized cultures. She is also a former prosecutor and has arrested many Black people in California. In a world and society where accountability for law enforcement is at an all time low, this typically is a red flag and still is for some. However, Senator Harris was locking up legitimate criminals who needed to be held accountable for their actions. This is exactly the kind of leadership and discipline the country needs in the White House. We need a President and Vice President who have the gumption and backbone to hold our adversaries accountable when they do harmful things or commit international crimes. Being a prosecutor and sitting on several senate judiciary committee’s has thickened Senator Harris’s skin and lowered her tolerance for bullshit. It has also provided her an opportunity to learn first hand how to work with others outside of her own political party. She is more than qualified to take on the position of the next Vice President. Yet, even with all that she has demonstrated in her work resume and her record, she will still be reduced to her gender and the colour of her skin throughout this election cycle.
Joe Biden would not have won the Presidential nomination without Senator Kamala Harris and the Black community. Period. There is an awakening that is happening in the consciousness of every American citizen, especially those of us who identify as people of colour. Black women continue to save the world and the country. While the weight of our Blackness is never lifted, we learn how to manage it. It gets lighter in some parts of life and heavier in others. But it is always a weight. Right now, a Black woman is (hopefully) saving the country by showing those of us left with the ability to think critically that we can change the current system for the better and it is not anti-American to do so. Conversely, it is the most American thing you can do. Fight for your democracy.