What does it mean to reach the pinnacle of success in a system designed to bring about the destruction of your people? Kamala Harris is the symbol of a social class willing to make sacrifices that impact far more people than themselves.
On August 11, 2020, presumptive Democratic Party Presidential nominee Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate. For women, especially Black women, the announcement held profound significance. Here was a woman of color who reached the highest echelons of American power not as the wife of a president, but in an official capacity a heartbeat away from the presidency, the visible fulfillment of the goals of every Black women who moved from the home, to higher education, then to the American mainstream and excelled.
There is much rejoicing, but also much discontent. For a great many African-Americans – young progressive voters in particular – Kamala Harris represents a woman who rose high in a white supremacist system by sometimes using that system to crush poor and working-class Black people. Whether that is true or not, the impression is there, and it has to be addressed.
For the Democratic party, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, better known as the 1994 Crime Bill, is a ghost that refuses to rest. Created largely as a response to Republican attacks painting liberals as “soft on crime”, the bill – a piece of legislation that until recently Joe Biden never tired of taking credit for drafting, and Bill Clinton signed into law – vastly expanded America’s mass incarceration complex and sent a generation of Black men to prison for decades, often for non-violent offenses. The spirit of the bill influenced the decisions of every prosecutor who wanted to survive in their elected position, including Kamala Harris. The cases of Cheree Peoples, Mitrice Richardson, and Jamal Trulove bear witness to this.
On the night of September 16, 2009, 24 year old Mitrice Richardson dined at Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu, CA. She failed to pay her $89 bill and was detained by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies. Her car was towed and she was booked at Lost Hills police station, 13 miles away from the restaurant. According to Mitrice’s mother Latice Sutton, she called the station to come pick her up and was told she could come do so, but Mitrice was released from custody at 1:25 AM, with no way to get back home.
She was never seen alive again.
Eleven months later, Mitrice Richardson’s mummified remains were found in a dry creek bed in Malibu Canyon. When L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, they were instructed by the coroner not to touch the body but her body was removed from the scene without authorization, an action that may have hampered the coroner’s investigation.
Richardson’s family filed suit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and asked the California attorney general’s office to review the department’s handling of the case. The office-then led by Kamala Harris,-found no grounds for criminal charges against the department.
In 2010, Jamal Trulove was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for the 2007 murder of Seu Kuka, who was shot dead in a San Francisco housing project. In 2014 his conviction was overturned and he was granted a new trial. Some of the details that emerged included the prosecution building the case on unreliable witness testimony, evidence showing homicide detectives framed Trulove, and overzealous prosecution. He was acquitted in 2015. Trulove later sued the City of San Francisco and it’s police department and was awarded a 13.1 million dollar settlement.
In a legal system like America’s it’s inevitable that the poorer you are and the darker your skin is, the more likely you are to become a victim of it.
What’s even more horrifying is the fact that there are Black people willing to overlook that reality. Gross miscarriages of California justice on Kamala’s watch have been overshadowed by the euphoria of a possible Black woman vice president or dismissed as collateral damage necessary for someone determined to climb the ladder of American success and irrelevant compared to the all-important work of removing Donald Trump from the White House.
“I Got Mine.”
There’s a phrase that every member of the Black striver class has memorized. It’s taught to them by their parents almost as soon as they leave the womb: “You have to be twice as good as them.” In many cases – especially when holding power over other Black people – that translates to being twice as ruthless.
From academia to boardrooms to the corridors of political power, winning is America’s true religion. The Black middle and upper class strivers studied the lessons and morals of a backstabbing, cutthroat, dog-eat-dog business culture and many emulated it, clothing themselves in respectability politics and moving into white society as best they could. The tradeoff was far too many distanced themselves from the Black masses to the point that their opinions of them echoed those of their influencers.
In that world, buying Jordans becomes more wasteful than government neglect; sagging pants and long dreads are worse issues than the overpolicing, underemployment, and unchecked gentrification destroying Black neighborhoods. And if the people living in those neighborhoods happen to get caught up in the system, then it’s their fault.
What we’re seeing now is the raw truth of Black classism laid bare: the fact that Black people with aspirations of becoming a version of the talented tenth are more than happy to let their poor and working-class Black brothers and sisters continue suffering under benign neglect so long as they get theirs.
This worldview is tailor-made for a political party that has largely abandoned it’s progressive left to court the center. What better way to bring your disgruntled Black voter base to heel than using a large pool of willing Black proxies to strongarm them into voting for no tangibles beyond optics?
Criticism & Condescension
By any visible measure a Biden/Harris Administration would be more competent than a second Trump administration. It’s also true that other more progressive candidates were viable, but the DNC was never going to back them and is now demanding its progressive wing, who sees voting as a moral decision, to compromise itself.
Using Trump as a boogeyman isn’t enough to scare Black voters into the booth and in a post-Obama political landscape, neither is using the identity of Black/POC candidates in lieu of policy. Trying to bully Black voters instead of addressing their concerns or their reservations about the nominees and treating them as mules expected to carry the Democratic party will fail. Badly.
The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the ongoing uprisings in it’s wake have forced America to look at the state of Black Americans but what’s changed in the half decade after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson is that the Black masses are too loud to be shouted down by Black gatekeepers more concerned with keeping their white moderate “allies” from hearing uncomfortable truths.
They are demanding to be heard and many skinfolk are going to have to give an accounting for their willingness to place poor and working-class Black bodies as sacrifices on the altar of their individual success.