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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Opinion

Kamala Harris as VP does not guarantee a win for people of color


Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate has left young Black voters with mixed feelings about the election. 

A vice president educated at a historically Black university could offer a new perspective in the White House, but her policies thus far don’t completely align with the views of young Black liberals. It’s hard to know whether to celebrate this as a win or prepare to be let down.

Harris’ track record in law enforcement and politics shows a woman who has always had public perception at the forefront of her mind. Her views on issues that young liberals are passionate about, like marijuana legalization and police brutality, seem to have shifted to mirror public opinion over the years.

In her 2009 book, “Smart on Crime,” Harris voiced her support of increasing the presence of police in communities. 

“Virtually all law-abiding citizens feel safer when they see officers walking a beat,” she wrote. 

Now, in the wake of several murders committed by police this year, Harris’ stance has completely flipped. In a recent New York Times article, Harris said that putting more cops on the streets was “wrong … just wrong.”

Her views on the legalization of marijuana follow a similar pattern. In her 2014 race for Attorney General of California, Harris laughed at her opponent’s support of decriminalizing marijuana in a local news interview. However, in a 2019 “Breakfast Club” interview, she voiced her pro stance on legalizing marijuana and even admitted to smoking a joint on one occasion “a long time ago.”

Students, especially Black students, were hesitant to rejoice at the news of Harris being nominated given her past. 

Engineering student Zachary Timms, also has mixed feelings about what her nomination means for the Black community.

It’s a monumental achievement,” Timms said. “However it’s an overall misrepresentation of what we as African Americans, particularly young voters, want.

His feelings embody the conversations being held across social media platforms among Black liberals. It’s hard to trust that their rights will be protected by someone whose reputation as a prosecutor reflects the opposite.

“Her persona of being hard on crime as an attorney general really meant being hard on people who are in poverty,” Timms said. “People that look like me.”

This fear that Harris could bring that same mentality to the White House is further pushing away the young Black vote. Timms still plans to vote for Biden and Harris, but he understands why his peers might choose not to vote at all.

Digital media student Haley Phillips admits that she initially liked Harris “at face value” but changed her opinion after reading up on her policies. 

“I could see why some would [see] it as a victory,” Phillips said. “But all skinfolk aren’t kinfolk.” 

Phillips believes that Harris represents the views of older Black voters who still adhere to “respectability politics.” According to her, Harris does not accurately represent Black millennials and Generation Z.

Despite her opinions on them, Phillips will be voting for Biden and Harris in the upcoming election.

Kamala Harris’ nomination is undoubtedly a big achievement for women and people of color. Having a person in office who can relate to minorities on some level could mend their relationship with the government. However, her race and gender do not guarantee that she will fight for the rights of people who look like her.

Jordan Hart is a journalism junior who can be reached at [email protected] 

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