Looking Beyond Kamala Harris’ Identity And At Her Political Actions
Kamala’s history demonstrates her priorities: sponsoring the corporate elite, locking up BIPOC, endangering trans folx and persecuting sex workers.
By Gloria Oladipo
Oh happy day, oh happy day, Kamala “Cop” Harris has gone away! On Tuesday, news broke that Kamala Harris was dropping out of the 2020 presidential race, officially ending her campaign a day ahead of a large fundraiser she had planned with some of her biggest donors. With that news my sinuses cleared, my skin glowed, and I felt a new energy that had left me ever since this shitshow of a primary campaign began. Of course, with Harris’s exit, the typical crowd of neoliberals came mourning her demise. They flooded my Twitter feed asking, “How could you ever want a Black woman to fail??” They tossed around accusations of misogynoir and wept at the lack of diversity on the debate stage.
I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be so ignorant to think that representation matters more than a history of discriminatory policies. For those who don’t know, Kamala Harris, despite her Blackness and womanhood, does not care about Black communities. Kamala Harris is not an ally for the marginalized or a voice for the historically persecuted. Her history demonstrates where her priorities lie: sponsoring the corporate elite, locking up Black and brown people, endangering trans folx, persecuting sex workers, and more.
I refuse to be upset about Kamala Harris’s failure given all the vulnerable people she harms. Her career as California’s Attorney General and state senator has been imbued with hatred and inequity. As California’s Attorney General, Harris pushed for legislation that would persecute the parents of routinely truant children, a policy that would disproportionately affect low-income parents of color who would face fines and possible jail time for attendance issues—punitive “solutions” to complex problems. Harris appealed a ruling that said the death penalty in California was unconstitutional, despite California having a number of wrongful convictions and injustice of the death penalty overall. Harris was opposed to the legalization of marijuana, despite how its criminalization has disproportionately incarcerated Black and brown people. Harris has been useless when it comes to enforcing changes for police officers; in 2015, she opposed a bill that would require her office to investigate police-involved shootings. She was also neglectful of standards that would regulate when officers need to wear body cameras. Moreover, Harris, during her administration, has a number of wrongful convictions that she has refused to overturn because of her own ego.
The senator has used her position to prosecute transgender people and sex workers, targeting them as opposed to those causing anguish. She also made no effort to prosecute murders of trans individuals, some of which have taken place in California, and she actively stopped trans inmates from receiving gender reassignment surgery. Harris has used her senatorial power to criminalize sex work by advocating for the bill — “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” or FOSTA — that would target any online platform that could facilitate sex trafficking. While Harris has characterized these websites as “pimping out minors,” many sex workers use these platforms for their livlihoods and are under attack by Harris.
Obviously, it’s sad to watch anyone run for president; funneling millions of dollars to lead this imperialist state is beyond me, but it’s even more disheartening to watch a Black woman engage in this clownery. When it comes to BIWOC, our identity is always weaponized by those with their own agendas. A cry for greater diversity in our government is manipulated and used to justify electing people like Harris or Lori Lightfoot—the gay, Black woman who worked closely with cops, and who was elected based on her identity compared to her principals—who are a part of extremely violent establishments. Representation is posited as the most important thing, even when it means electing those who will harm vulnerable populations. A person’s positionality is even used to stop valid critiques; several cries denouncing Harris’s history have been overshadowed by accusations of “racism” and ”misogyny.” However, the same people who are vying for Harris aren’t interested in protecting and serving marginalized communities; they want a Black face in the White House and superficial representation in the place of substantial change. There are many Black feminists and activists generally who are organizing and fighting for our communities that are not being given millions of dollars for their work. There are people fighting in the street, organizing communities, standing up in the face of injustice—they receive nothing and are actively targeted. Much like how liberals pine for Barack Obama, Harris supporters simply want representation to redress what an oppressive government like the United States looks like. They want the same corporations defended, the same killings of Black and brown people, the same apartheid in Israel—but this time, make it Blacker.
Harris isn’t good for Black and brown communities who she is interested in locking up. Harris isn’t good for trans folks who she wants to deny services to. Harris isn’t good for sex workers whose livelihood she criminalizes, or poor people who she wants to imprison for their children’s absences. If you’re someone who enjoys watching trans folks continually get shat upon, Black people murdered without justice, and all the other heinous aspects of Harris’s past and present, firstly, fuck you, and secondly, you probably aren’t too happy that she’s a Black woman. However, if you’re someone who vaguely likes diversity and has a construed importance of representation, know this: a person’s positionality can only do so much. I don’t want a Black woman for president if that candidate has such a hateful record. I’d rather fight to see myself represented by someone whose politics reflect my own instead of supporting someone who simply looks likes me — and you can and should too.
Gloria Oladipo is a Black woman who is a sophomore at Cornell University and a permanent resident of Chicago, IL. She enjoys reading and writing on all things race, gender, mental health, and more. Follow her on Instagram at @glorels.
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