Kamala Harris Isn’t a Perfect Candidate, But We Don’t Need Perfect
Harris as a vice presidential pick is actually a good choice for Biden and the nation
“Women must become revolutionary. This cannot be evolution but revolution.”
That is a quote from Representative Shirley Chisholm. In 1968, during the height of the civil rights movement, Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress. Four years later, she would be the first Black woman to run for president. As I watched social media burst into unbridled joy with the news of Senator Kamala Harris, a Black woman, being chosen as the vice presidential nominee for Joe Biden, I couldn’t help but think of the giant political shoulders upon which Harris stands: 2020 marks the first time a Black woman and a South Asian woman was selected to be the VP nominee of a major party.
It’s been 48 years since Chisholm’s historic bid for the presidency and since then, Black women have arrived back at the precipice of power — where we have always belonged but often been denied our rightful place. Through Harris’ nomination, the Democratic Party has signaled to the country — and to Black women in particular — that they know where the future is headed. We have heard ad nauseam about the impending demographic shift. We have seen through the not-so-subtle actions of the Trump administration that they will do anything to try and impede the inevitable.
“This is White supremacy’s last stand.” I said this on election night in 2016, and so here we are.
Over the last three and a half years under the Trump regime, White supremacy has become more emboldened and full throttled than we have seen in decades. We have watched as armed White militia — whether directed by the president or of their own volition — storm capitol buildings, tear gas citizens, and work to terrorize Americans into submission. Whenever progress dares to show its face in this country there are always White men at the ready working overtime to pull us backwards. When Senator Harris made her bid for the presidency, she faced relentless bots that attacked her ethnicity, her interracial marriage, her Blackness, and her ambition. The attacks were so egregious that even her fellow candidates came to her aid.
Black women have always scared America. We are the forced wet nurses to a nation that stole everything from us — our children, our partners, and our wombs. We have been the creators of all things and the bearers of all things. The fear of a reckoning for historical wrongdoings that has crossed generations has always made White people and White men in power particularly uneasy. In her 1937 novel, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, through her character Janine Crawford, that, “Black women are the mules of the world.” In this description, Hurston captured not only the enduring strength of Black women but also, the abuse we face on a daily basis to carry the world’s problems on our backs.
Senator Kamala Harris is our perfectly imperfect Vice-Presidential nominee and America’s much-needed new catalyst for change.
The selection of Senator Kamala Harris in many ways is an obvious nod to the strength of Black women to meet every moment with which we have been presented and has signaled the necessary transition from sturdy base of the party to face of the future. While there will be grievances about Harris’ past prosecution of low-level drug offenses and her participation in a criminal justice system that has locked too much of our nation’s Black and Brown potential behind bars, we cannot at this critical time get lost in our quest for perfection and miss the gravity we are facing.
Donald Trump is the kind of person whom I imagine esteemed author James Baldwin was thinking of when he said, “Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” We have an enemy among us: a man, a political party, a Justice Department, and a Supreme Court that are aligned against progress. This moment is crucial. And Democrats must not make the mistake of turning on their own due to perceived imperfections in a Black woman who, because of the society we live in, had to shape-shift her way to power. What does that mean? For Harris it meant making, at times, unfortunate decisions about the sentencing of our people and their court or jail penalties. Black women are no strangers to the compromises necessary to advance in our chosen industry — Senator Harris is no different.
We don’t need perfection in this moment. What America needs is a patriot, a fighter, and a woman that symbolizes the future that we can become if we stay focused on the task at hand. When I watched, alongside the world, as Senator Harris turned Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s face bright red with fury and had William Barr on his heels during their confirmation hearings, I knew, in those moments, she was the woman we needed to prosecute the case against Donald Trump. When she stood on stage and challenged her now running mate Joe Biden to take a look at his past and learn from the awful policies he championed, she showed America she wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power.
“At present, our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else,” Chisholm proclaimed some 48 years ago. America needs Senator Kamala Harris. They need a fearless woman who is, as Chisholm once said, unbossed and unbothered by what and where society believes Black women should sit. Senator Kamala Harris is our perfectly imperfect Vice-Presidential nominee and America’s much-needed new catalyst for change.