Let women of color guiltlessly criticize Kamala Harris

The 2020 election will make history for a number of reasons, the most notable being the nomination of Kamala Harris, a half-Black, half-Indian woman of color as the Democratic Party’s vice president. 

If Harris is elected into office, the standard she sets will be the new generalization for all Black and Asian women. If she is not principled and perfect, her reputation will be the burden of all Black and Asian women to carry.

As coming-of-age women of color, we have two options in this election cycle: make valid criticisms of Harris’s record and risk turning our back on someone setting a historical precedent for our people, or blindly show a WOC politician we disagree with “unity and solidarity” in the name of avoiding hypocrisy attacks. We cannot criticize Harris without it being thrown back in our faces.

Fundamentally, Harris’ actions should reflect her beliefs as a politician, not be weaponized as basal actions for all women of color. But in a world where the actions of one WOC are reflected upon us all, we are not allowed the same individual dimension that white men are. While our competency is never out of question, our inept white counterparts are barely scrutinized. 

Take the Oct. 7 vice presidential debate: Harris was held to a higher standard, unreasonably torn apart by those searching for reasons to slap the “angry black woman” stereotype on her, while Pence sat idly by explaining how systemic racism does not exist and no one batted an eye. No one deserves the racism and sexism she faces on a daily basis.

However, we are uninterested in combating it by putting her on a pedestal, the knee-jerk reaction most white liberals seem to be resorting to. Harris should not be presented as the pinnacle of WOC success, not after climbing up the backbone of white supremacy to get there. 

At best, Harris is a powerful WOC who overcame every barrier to get to where she is today. But, at worst, Harris is an ex-cop with a dicey history of transphobia. In exchange for upholding a justice system built against the success of her and millions of WOC like her, she proudly and continually sacrificed us for misplaced incremental “change.” Her stance on climate change is mediocre at best and her supposed “righteousness” is opportunistic, informed by the changing tide of what will garner her the most support instead of a steadfast moral conviction of what is right and just. 

Harris spent her career fighting despite the systemic injustices she faced, instead of fighting because of them. The representation she could potentially provide in our government would be misguided.

That being said, there is another consideration, that Harris’ actions up until now have been a ploy to try and fix things from the inside. Perhaps Harris believed that the ends would justify the means, that if she sabotaged her identity then, it would all be worth it now. But as WOC, we are all constantly pitted against each other in the fight for the singular seat we are offered at the white man’s table. Our responsibility to one another is to fight together, not against each other, so that the table has space for more than just one of us. It cannot be dismantled the way Harris chose to fight: taking the low road, where the cost of her success is every other WOC.

We should be allowed to criticize Harris the same way we can criticize Biden and any other white man in office: without feeling as if we are betraying our fellow WOC the same way she betrayed us. 

Settle for blue, but remember that this harm reduction voting is not enough. Continue to criticize your politicians, and continue to criticize the institution. Change is made by the people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.