After what seems like an eternity, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has finally announced his running mate. The former vice president has chosen Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) to join his ticket to challenge Donald Trump in November. Some have already pointed out the obvious flaws in Biden’s choice; in the age of “Defund the Police,” he is choosing a prosecutor who locked up thousands of black men while she served as California’s attorney general. Despite this apparent oversight, Biden tried to satisfy the intersectional crowd by selecting a “woman of color” – but the pick he ended up with may not exactly have been what black Democrats meant when they said they wanted a black woman.
Harris’ Blackness Might Be A Factor
We are all old enough to remember when Harris failed to go above third place during the Democratic primaries. Despite taking on Biden during one of the debates over his position on school busing, she was unable to win over black voters, who overwhelmingly favored the former vice president.
One of the points of contention is her blackness or lack thereof. Questions regarding her heritage and cultural affiliation abounded amongst African Americans who doubted that she could relate to their experiences. In an appearance on “The Breakfast Club,” a popular black radio talk show, hosts DJ Envy and Charlamagne Tha God brought up the doubts on Harris’ black heritage. The candidate’s father came to the United States from Jamaica, and her mother is from India. Moreover, she spent much of her childhood living in Canada as a student.
Harris responded by pointing out that she was born and raised in Oakland, California, and that she was facing the same questions that former President Barack Obama had to answer when he was running. “Look, this is the same thing they did to Barack. This is not new to us, and so I think that we know what they are trying to do,” she said. “They are trying to do what has been happening over the last two years, which is powerful voices trying to sow hate and division among us, and so we need to recognize when we’re being played.”
The debate continued on CNN when White House correspondent April Ryan and anchor Don Lemon argued over the issue. Lemon criticized Harris for failing to acknowledge that she is an African American definitively. Ryan responded by repeating the candidate’s line that she was born in Oakland. She claimed Harris had the experience of a black woman in America. “So she could indeed be African-American mixed with others, but she is a black woman,” Ryan said. Lemon interrupted, “Jamaica is not America. Jamaica did not come out of Jim Crow. I’m just saying.”
Much of the ire against Harris comes from American Descendants of Slaves (ADOS), a movement which delineates between blacks whose ancestors came to the U.S. as slaves and those whose families migrated willingly after slavery had been abolished. ADOS proponents argue that someone like Harris is not in touch with the black community due to her heritage and the fact that she has a problematic record as attorney general in California.
Will Harris Get Biden More Black Voters?
Joe Biden already enjoys support from the majority of black voters, just like any other Democratic presidential candidate. By choosing a black woman as his running mate, he has ensured that he will remain competitive. But will this be enough?
While she continually trailed other Democratic candidates during the primaries, it is possible that Harris could win over black women and white liberals. But her widely acknowledged lack of charisma may neutralize any potential benefits she might bring. Combined with Biden’s racially insensitive remarks, her cringeworthy cackling might turn enough people off to prevent them showing up at the polls in November. There is still time before election day arrives, and anything can happen. Biden could continue to offend black Americans with more thoughtless comments. Perhaps more damaging information about Harris’ prosecutorial record will surface. Still, despite the persistent questions about her blackness, she may be the safest choice for the former vice president.
Read more from Jeff Charles.