Black America Isn’t Fooled by the Kamala Harris Nomination
I can remember when you’d be branded a bigot for basing your vote purely on a candidate’s race or ethnicity. Now, apparently, it’s the only thing we’re supposed to consider. For me, this paradox reached new heights with the announcement of Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. By the logic of identity politics, this should have secured my vote.
After all, like Harris, I am a Black woman with a multicultural background. (I was born in Panama and my family has roots in the Caribbean, India, and Portugal.) As such, I was pleased to see another Black woman reach such political heights. As an American, I appreciate her success story.
Identity Politics, Not the Gospel
And as a conservative Christian, I would not vote for her. It’s deeply frustrating. Harris’ nomination demonstrates how entrenched identity politics has become in our culture. It is an open secret that Biden picked Harris as his running mate because he wanted (or, more accurately, was pressured) to put a Black woman on the ticket. Harris checked the boxes. So Harris got the nod.
After her dismal performance in the primary campaign, we have now been treated to a media rewrite of Harris’ record. She has only been a senator since 2017, and her short time in Congress did not impress. Her most notable moment in the past few years? Her grandstanding during the Kavanaugh hearing. That was an embarrassing display that demonstrated little other than her political ambition. And her embrace of the radical left.
A Disaster for Black Americans
As Bill Owens and I explain in our latest book, A Dream Derailed, those leftist policies have been disastrous to the African American community, leading to failing schools and decaying inner cities. The left is also hostile to the biblical principles that are at the heart of the Black church, while progressives often seek to silence or marginalize Christians.
Harris’s time as a prosecutor is being used to support the idea that the Democratic ticket is tough on crime, a strange and unconvincing move in light of the party’s embrace of the “defund the police” movement.
But even here, Harris’s record does not inspire confidence. She gained notoriety for throwing marijuana users in jail and for threatening the parents of truants with criminal penalties. Far from helping the African American community, Harris was one of the prosecutors who pursued disastrous policies in policing and incarceration. Prison reform, such as Trump’s First Step Act, had to be enacted in order to mitigate the harm done to the Black community by prosecutors like Kamala Harris.
Crowning a Quota Queen?
Let’s be honest about what is really going on. Picking Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate was just affirmative action at the highest level. There is nothing in her record to recommend her other than her gender and ethnicity. To nominate her shows an infuriating level of political cynicism on the part of the Democratic Party. That’s because it assumes that this is all it takes to win over an increasing alienated Black electorate.
Trump’s approval rating among Black voters has been steadily rising, as his efforts at prison reform and reducing Black unemployment have proven that he cares. Democrats, on the other hand, have responded with their usual strategy: Engage in identity politics and assume you have the Black vote all sewn up.
Optics and Pandering
What have Democrats done to help the Black community lately? All we have seen from them are gestures and pandering … and Kamala Harris’s Veep nomination is the perfect example of this approach. The Democratic Party has been taking the Black vote for granted for decades.
In a year when the country’s racial divide has become a big issue, the Democrats have responded with optics and pandering. It is the biggest example of, “I can’t be racist because some of my best friends are Black,” in history. And an attempt from the Biden campaign to “prove” that his multiple gaffes on race are meaningless because he has a Black running mate.
We Can Do Better
It is painful to see an intelligent, accomplished woman used as a political pawn in this way. But that won’t change the way I see this election. I still hold true to the dream of Dr. King. I want a future where we hold hands as brothers and sisters in a country where the color of our skin has no meaning, but the content of our characters does.
This year, I will be voting based on character, values, and policy. I won’t be asking, “What race is this candidate?” but rather, “What has this candidate done to help the Black community, and does he or she align with my values?” If the only thing the Democratic candidate has to offer is racial pandering, he or she won’t be getting my vote.
Dr. Deborah De Sousa Owens is the Executive Director of the Coalition of African American Pastors and the Founder of Mission Education. Deborah and her husband, Rev. William Owens, travel extensively speaking about their core values: choices in education, the sanctity of life, the protection of marriage, and the free expression of faith. It’s a message she also shares as the co-host of CAAP’s online show Wisdom for Today.