The Hidden Message in Kamala Harris’ Smile

Black women see themselves in Kamala’s ‘I’m speaking’ face

Kamala Harris during the Vice Presidential debate on October 7th, 2020.
U.S. Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California Kamala Harris gestures during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

“I’m speaking.”

Two simple words but so much meaning.

There was something hauntingly familiar about the grin that slowly spread across Senator Kamala Harris’ face while she calmly reminded the vice president not to interrupt her during their debate. It’s the smile every Black woman has had on her face when she is full of rage and cannot express it without being reduced to a stereotype.

Black women, especially Black women in the public eye like Harris, are under extreme pressure to maintain composure lest we be labeled as “rude,” “angry,” or “volatile.” These labels have dangerous consequences to our reputations, our livelihoods, and even our lives. Stepping out of the trap of respectability, even in small ways like simply reminding someone that you’re still talking, can cost you everything. So Black women have learned to smile to keep from breaking.

Kamala Harris is every Black woman who has tried to stay calm while she was being lied about. She is every Black woman who has had to remain silent while an unqualified White man shouted over them. She is every Black woman who has gritted her teeth to hide frustration because she knows eyes are on her, judging her every move. She is every Black woman who has had to grin and bear abuse while others just watched.

Kamala Harris is every Black woman who smiles through their suffering of fools and injustice.

Senior Platform Editor @ZORAmag | book lover | fangirl | Black woman | Terp

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