And it wasn’t exactly Kamala herself, but rather the plethora of news and comments that the Internet has rapidly dug up – or produced, rather – forcing the population to pick a side (for the record, I support Kamala).
Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate for Vice President on Tuesday and it almost immediately became the center of a storm on social media, most of it along the lines of: “This is not a victory. This is a safe choice.”
In typical dog-eat-dog fashion, this was then followed by an abundance of headlines like CNN.com’s, “Picking Kamala Harris makes history, but will it make a difference in November?”; USA Today’s, “You have to win first: What Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris tells us about Biden.”; or the random Delaware-based article I found, entitled “‘Phony’ ‘Fantastic’ ‘Radical’ ‘Incredible’: Politicians weigh in on choice of Kamala Harris.”
My thing is: was it a safe choice to select a woman? A woman of Black and South Asian descent for such a prestigious and public viewing role? Was it a safe choice to nominate a woman who has strong ties to policing the police?
My answer: this was not a safe choice. Kamala’s mother is from India and father from Jamaica, that in itself is a victory. High political roles are often held by white males. She is neither. In fact, she is the first Black woman and the first of South Asian descent to run for the vice presidential nomination for a major U.S. political party. This is not just a victory for Kamala Harris. This is a victory for all women. And Black and Brown people everywhere.
All the people that are worked up over this decision – believe one of two things. One, that Joe Biden selected her in the result of the momentum of Black Lives Matter, in hopes to get more Black voters – yielding the nomination to be a safe and smart choice, while conveying the fact that the role was handed to her and that she didn’t work hard. I have an issue with that. Kamala Harris is not an overnight success. She didn’t just step into power and grace. She has worked countless hours and years to get to the stature she is today. As California’s first female Attorney General, she worked tirelessly to relieve Americans of the 2008 housing crisis by landing a $25 billion settlement for homeowners. She championed the decision to grant first-time drug offenders the chance to earn a high school diploma and find employment. She helped win marriage equality for all Californians. A simple Google search will pull up many more of her accomplishments.
Black women experience a lot of pressure at the top. They are aware they’re not the first Black person that’s been qualified to be there. Black people, like Barack Obama or Shirley Chisholm, held credentials and put the work in and should have been there. Hearing Kamala speak about her hard-working mother, it’s obvious that she understands her ancestors laid the foundation for her to exist in such spaces. And that the combination of her own hard work and achievements, solidifies her space. This nomination is a win for Black women who have high, larger-than-life ambitions and people of color who want to see themselves represented in all facets of the political system.
Opposing people also believe the relationship between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is forced. The Democratic Conventions of last year are too fresh in their minds, as they remember how she challenged his thoughts and his history of opposing mandated busing in order to integrate schools. I would argue that we need people who challenge big statements and question our routes to change. I think her candor and fearsome debate skills are a welcomed talent for America.
I get that people feel that Joe Biden doesn’t understand Black people and that he thinks all Black people or Black Democrats want the same thing. That, of course, is false. We don’t all want the same things. But by selecting a Black female as his right hand, he’ll learn that as she’ll be a force for all our communities and opinions.
For Kamala Harris – and of course, many others – there is a downside to being nominated. Everything you ever did in your life, good or bad, is brought to the surface for all the public to react to. Shoplifted at 15? Arrested for being too drunk in public? Yep, we know all about that now too.
It’s a slippery slope when you’re in a position of power or visibility. The media and common folks will go down a rabbit hole of personal information to give to the public at any cost. But one thing remains, Joe Biden’s decision to select Kamala Harris as his Vice President is a major step forward in Black political power. And that is a victory.
Photo via Chris Carlson/Associated Press