today in black history

September 18, 2020

Booker T. Washington delivers his "Atlanta Compromise" speech at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition in 1895.

Harris makes the Cut

POSTED: August 13, 2020, 10:30 am

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After weeks of speculation and nail biting, the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden announced his choice of California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate and vice presidential nominee. The selection of Harris ended a process during which a number of credible women were considered by Biden for the number 2 spot on the ticket. Early on, the former vice president had indicated he would select a woman as his running mate and he was also under pressure from Democratic insiders, such as South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, and Black women to select a Black woman for the ticket. Among the women that received serious consideration were former Ambassador Susan Rice, Florida Congresswoman Val Demings and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms.

The choice of Harris, a Black woman of Jamaican and Indian descent, is a first for a major party ticket. Harris, a graduate of Howard University, previously served as the San Francisco District Attorney, California Attorney General and Senator representing the Golden State. She was a candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and her experience on the campaign trail likely served as a selling point to Biden. Harris is also recognized as a fierce orator and debater, a benefit of her prosecutorial skills, and gained notoriety for challenging Biden on the issue of school segregation during a primary debate. The California senator also had a relationship with Biden’s late son Beau when he served as Attorney General for the state of Delaware.

In this COVID-19 environment the usual festive celebration that normally occurs with the revealing of a presidential ticket was not possible for the Biden campaign. However, the campaign managed to pull off a flawless and poignant announcement that matched the seriousness and historic nature of the moment. Biden offered the nation a case for his presidency, juxtaposing the failures of the Trump administration with his experience in the Senate and as vice president, and his moral fitness to lead the nation. Harris took to the podium and showed her prosecutorial flair, brilliantly dissecting the record of the Trump/Pence team and offering an indictment of its failed leadership. She showed the confidence that Biden knew was necessary for his running mate given that the vice president must be capable of serving in the Oval Office. The absence of an audience gave yesterday’s announcement an air of seriousness that fit the mood of a nation facing a historic economic downturn and a pandemic.

Particularly significant in the selection of Kamala Harris as the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee is the impact it will have in motivating Black women to the polls and students and alumni of historically Black colleges and universities. Harris is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Inc. and social media lit up yesterday as her Sorors and members of other Black Greek letter sororities and fraternities made clear their intent on mobilizing the vote and raising funds for the Biden-Harris ticket. The excitement among Democratic Party regulars was evident too as the Biden campaign took in a record breaking haul in online donations. Harris, herself a prolific fundraiser, is expected to substantially aid the ticket’s fundraising capacity.

Next up for the Democratic ticket is the party’s nominating convention. Originally scheduled for Milwaukee, the convention has been dramatically scaled down to a virtual event with a number of speakers, including Republican John Kasich, set to endorse the ticket and make the case for a Biden presidency in November. For his part, Donald Trump spent the day making infantile and derogatory comments concerning Senator Harris despite in the past having been laudatory of her and contributing to her campaigns in California. No doubt, Republicans will struggle to find a line of attack against Harris that will not be couched in sexist and racist rhetoric.

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