Harris has spent her career locking up black and brown people. She should not be allowed to shake hands, kiss babies or walk into black churches without being taken to task.
California Senator Kamala Harris shows all the signs of announcing her candidacy for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. She is giving speeches in the right states, interviewing with the right talking heads, and recently published the obligatory memoir. She has been on the Democratic funder’s casting couch for nearly two years. Only the official announcement is missing.
But Harris is highly problematic for black voters, perhaps more so than any other candidate. She served as the district attorney of San Francisco and later as attorney general of California. In both roles she did everything in her power to support the mass incarceration system and all of its foundations. That is what prosecutors do after all, but most of them don’t try to run for president and ask for black people’s votes.
Barack Obama was smart enough to choose a career path free of such red flags. As a community organizer, state legislator and United States senator he took a route that black people were able to support. Unlike Harris he was not actively involved in building the prison system, the institution that has done more damage to black people than any other.
The movement against mass incarceration and police killings is the human rights movement of our time. No one should be permitted to run for president with an expectation of black support if like Harris they played a role in worsening this ongoing humanitarian crisis.
As attorney general Harris opposed legislation that would have required her office to investigate police shootings. When California was ordered to reduce prison overcrowding she argued against it. She said, accurately, that a low wage work force would go free. But that is the reason to diminish the carceral state, not an argument to continue it. She always sided with law enforcement, which means she acted against the interests of black people. She still does this in her memoir, These Truths We Hold: An American Journey. She says of mass incarceration, “I wanted to tear it down,” but the facts say otherwise.
One of her more disgraceful policies was to victim shame black mothers for their children’s school truancy. They were fined and when most of them could not pay, were put in jail and separated from their children. This action is the epitome of modern day chattel slavery and Harris cannot be given a pass.
She constantly hedges on issues of crime and punishment that have been so devastating. In one breath she states the obvious and says that police brutality exists. She then feels obliged to add that police, “deserve to be proud of their public service and commended for the way they do their jobs.” She now says, “We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it. And we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.” But as attorney general she actively opposed marijuana legalization.
Harris shows her true colors before she even begins her campaign. She is either a cold hearted cynic who went along with the ever popular cult of being “tough on crime” or she harbors true animus towards black people. In either case she presents a great danger.
The 2020 election is already presenting dangers to black voters. The understandable desire to defeat Trump is complicated by the role of the ever duplicitous Democratic Party. The racist divide keeps black people trapped in the party that is only slightly less racist. Hillary Clinton spoke openly of “super predator” youth who must “be brought to heal.” Bill Clinton made Republican fantasies come true by ending a 60-year long right to public assistance. Obama negated the very idea of a black polity when he wasn’t telling jokes about an imaginary cousin Pookie. The only thing worse than accepting this long history of Democratic treachery would be electing someone who openly destroyed the lives of black men, women and children.
Kamala Harris is no friend of black people and she should be treated as such. She should not be allowed to shake hands, kiss babies or walk into black churches without being taken to task. We have seen this movie and we know how it ends. A black candidate with all the right credentials makes the case for race pride but the people end up with nothing to show for their adoration.
It can be argued that Obama’s presidency left black Americans worse off than before he took office. The already weakened black radical tradition was jettisoned in favor of representational politics that was devoid of any tangible political benefit. The only thing worse would be to elect another corporate backed Democrat ready to fool us with false notions of race pride. We must say no to Kamala Harris.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.