Kamala Harris, Birtherism, Race and the Unscrupulous, Sinister Antics of the Far Right!
Now that she has emerged as a serious contender for the 2020 democratic nomination for president, Kamala Harris has come under attack from a number of conservative political outlets. Various segments of the right wing echo chamber immediately began working overtime in an effort to discredit the former California attorney general, https://thinkprogress.org/a-coordinated-social-media-effort-failed-to-take-away-kamala-harris-black-identity-7da4beaa7f34/ now U.S. Senator.
Partisan knives have been purchased, sharpened and some have been employed by their unethical owners in an unabashed effort to attempt to stab and discredit the senator’s claim of American roots. Fortunately, for Harris, her formidable mental agility coupled with her acute political acumen has been a tremendous weapon to protect herself and stave off a vicious onslaught of treacherous and wicked attacks.
The most recent genesis of such a sinister ploy originated by a Black conservative internet blogger, Ali Alexander whose online identity was previously known as Ali Akbar and Ali Abdul Razaq Akbar. Alexander is a Black right wing, MAGA-world internet personality https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kamala-harris-bot-twitter birther_n_5d1692d1e4b07f6ca57d4fd8?section=us_black-voices who crafted and engineered a website for similar, conspiratorial, like-minded fringe elements of the extreme right who were unable or in some cases, unwilling to either embrace or find a stable home in more mainstream conservative media circles.
Along with Paris Dennard, the shameless sister Trump thumping duo Diamond and Silk, right wing gadfly Katrina Pierson, perversely opportunistic, current Black right wing media darling, Candace Owens and a few other political and social deviants, these Black men and women have decided to hitch their political hopes and fortunes to the often politically rabid, chaotic, unhinged and largely amoral administration of Donald Trump.
Speaking of Trump’s, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s undisciplined and at times, seemingly mentally challenged son, followed Alexander’s lead and plastered similar, inaccurate, nonsensical blather over the internet for to all of his followers to opine. Alt-right personality and founder of the open neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin arrogantly touted the case to his rabid, pre-conceived opinionated, like-minded racist and anti-Semitic thinkers the ridiculous and foolish assertion that Harris was “not an American.” In the case of Trump Jr., I guess that old adage “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree,” possesses some degree of validity.
For most, if not all of the other right wing commentators, pundits and other politically far right enablers and cultural critics, the indisputable fact is that reality ( for some willfully and opportunistically) has eluded them. Understandably outraged by such scurrilous attacks on a fellow candidate, several democratic candidates issues candid statements both, defending Harris’ as well as rightly denouncing those who engaged in such retrograde activity. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020-democrats-rush-to-defend-kamala-harris-against-attacks-on-her blackness/2019/06/29/5978549c-9aa3-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html?utm_term=.e241952ba826
Such odious tactics are far from original. Indeed, America as well as the larger world (for those who paid deep, serious and rapt attention) witnessed such callous treatment directed toward former President Barack Obama. From Orly Taitz, author of the original birther “theory,” to a number of opportunistic talk show hosts, bloggers and politicians who routinely advocated, winked at and all too eagerly advanced grossly irresponsible theories on their radio programs and to their political constituencies.
While it is indeed possible some of these men and women may or may not have been hard core, dyed in the wool racially motivated bigots. Nonetheless, the undeniable fact is that a disproportionate percentage were /are in the interest of bonanza ratings, a plethora of advertisers, admiration from of legions of insecure, misguided listeners, ample speaking fees and other perks that frequently accompany more than a few influential conservative media personalities, decided to forego any sense of moral responsibility and rather, cash in on the fears, resentments and hostilities of their neurotically paranoid followers. Like our former president, Harris is facing enduring similar levels of unfounded vilification.
This is evident in the fact that these are the same individuals who eagerly tout the message that Senator Harris’ Jamaican and Indian pedigree disqualifies her as claiming Black American heritage as well as being considered for the presidency of the United States of America. What these misguided people either fail or disingenuously pretend not to realize is that given the undeniable fact that Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California, on American soil, she is an American citizen and thus, has every single right under the sun to run for the highest office in our nation! Period! Case closed! Not surprisingly, Obama faced identical consternation from some as a result of his father’s Kenyan and mother’s Kansas backgrounds.
Jingoistic populism, resentment and xenophobia aside, the primary factor in the rabid level of irrational hatred and hostility directed toward Obama at the time and more recently with Harris is RACE! It is unimaginable that any White politician would face this level of seething vitriol. Indeed, in the early 2000’s, there were efforts by some conservatives to have the US constitution amended so that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be eligible to run for president. We know that the Austrian born body builder, later movie star and former governor of California was not born on American soil! His supporters did so as well!
Keeping it real and telling it like it is, the fact is that for many on the right, in particular, the far right, their entrenched, bigoted mindset has adopted the belief that most upper levels of politics, in particular, the Presidency of the United States, is a position that is supposed to be reserved for Whites, primarily White men and should be off limits to Black people and all non-Whites for that matter. These are the racist individuals for whom just the mere thought of a Black person or family residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is more than a little unsettling. For some, it is downright nightmarish and a serious affront to their racist sensibilities.
As they see it, the only time a Black person should be anywhere near the White House is in a fiction novel, short story or Hollywood movie. In fact, the only real life scenarios that would be acceptable would be as gardeners, maids, butlers or other clerical staff. They would much rather see people of African descent cooking, cleaning, window washing, doing the laundry, manicuring the White House lawn(s) etc.… as opposed to wining, dining, hobnobbing with celebrities, entertaining guests and heads of state, sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom and discussing domestic and international policy in the west wing. As they see it, such a reality is totally unacceptable!
Truth be told, it is important to note that opposition to Kamala Harris is not solely relegated to a fringe segment of far right extremists or seemingly misfit/Black conservative political and social deviants. There has been a notable degree of consternation toward her (Harris) from certain Black liberal and progressive quarters as well. These are the men and some women who question whether Harris’ life experiences can qualify as a person who has been “sufficiently” and “authentically” rooted in Black. Culture. Or rather, is she too snooty and elitist for the more gritty, rank and file, chitlin’ circuit Black masses?
Yes, sad to say, we have a number of people in our own community who love to submit various litmus tests as to whether a fellow Black person is “legitimately” Black enough. Such requirements can range from arguably questionable to somewhat suspect to downright dubious to outright absurd. Did one grow up in poverty? Has one faced a certain amount of racism? etc….
The hard, cold reality is that every Black person in America regardless of level of education or social status has/is going to endure some degree of racism no matter how subtle or blatant. These sorts of “have you been bucked and scorned,” or as cultural critic Adrian Piper refers to as “suffering tests” do no one any good save for those who subscribe to the perverse vice of schadenfreude.
It is undoubtedly due to such apprehension from some fellow Black folk that Harris sporadically makes efforts to tout her Black credentials such as being a graduate of one of the nation’s legendary HBCU’s, Howard University. Being a member of the Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA). That she was a product of urban busing. Her love of rap and hip /hop music and other factors that she may feel will assuage whatever degree of skepticism she cultivates in some of her Black brethren who are less than sold on her candidacy.
To be honest, I will concede that I have serious reservations about some of Harris’ political stances, most notably her hard line, arguably, draconian prosecutorial record as it relates to the criminal justice system and the debilitating impact that such policies have had on lower income and marginalized Black communities. Her previous support of embracing lavish tax cuts for big corporations and similar laissez-faire positions give me cause for pause. Personal misgivings aside, one thing I have no doubt about is that fact that she is Black and identifies as such! Not in a Rachel Dolezal manner but as actually having one parent who is of African heritage!
None of us are above criticism regardless of who we are and as she moves up in the polls and becomes a more prominent contender for the nomination, her political record will come under increasing scrutiny and rightly so. In fact, it already has. This is the case for anyone running for president. This is where we need to focus our questions about Kamala Harris. Her past and present political stances. Not getting sidetracked by petty, superficial, meaningless discussions questioning her blackness. Do not take the bait of conservative critics! Let the right wing stew in its own foul and tasteless broth of political trickery, manipulation and deception!
Elwood Watson, Ph.D. is professor, author and public speaker. He is the author of the forthcoming Keepin’ It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America that will be published by the University of Chicago Press later this year.