Kamala Harris: Unbossed, Unbothered and Black AF
On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Toure are feeling all the feels. But naturally, in the Trump era, there’s plenty to be pissed off about, too.
It’s official: Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s running mate. Cue the confetti and maybe a few happy tears, too.
Her historic nomination has profound significance, both for the 2020 race and history writ large. Can the Biden/Harris ticket transform voter turnout?
We can’t wait for Kamala to rhetorically eviscerate Trump on the campaign trail –– and (hopefully) prosecute his criminal ass afterward.
Finally! After months of anticipation and endless speculation, she has arrived.
Kamala Harris makes history as the first Black vice-presidential nominee and the first Black and Asian woman on a major-party ticket.
Our hosts thought through the issue last week and predicted Biden would choose Kamala. But they were unprepared for how it would feel when it actually happened.
“I’m more emotional than I thought I would be,” says Toure. “It's historic, it's powerful, it's inspiring. It's empowering.”
Danielle is reminded of immortal words of Shirley Chisholm –– the first black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968 and the first black woman to run for president in 1972 –– which can be applied so well to Kamala: She’s “unbossed and unbothered.”
For the first time in a long time, there’s something to celebrate. Now that we’ve got the ticket, what’s next?
Episode Highlights –– Kamala: Unbossed
Kamala’s nomination — a ‘stepping stone’ that gives us chills
Toure, who has known Kamala for many years, says she “has always seemed like one of those people who, if our plane was going down, I’d be happy to entrust with saving our lives.”
Moreover, the significance of her nomination is profound –– both now, in the summer of Black Lives Matter, and in the context of American history.
“It's thrilling to see this Black woman ascend so high,” he adds. “Not just because of the importance of Black women to the Democratic Party –– but because anybody who's moving through the world with their eyes open knows: in whatever institution, you see Black women rolling up their sleeves, being powerful leaders, making shit happen.”
He sees her nomination as a “stepping stone” toward an electrifying vision of the future. It’s hard not to fast-forward a few years and get the chills.
“Ten or 12 years ago, if I said, you'll see two black presidents in your lifetime, and they're both gonna be cool people you’d like to hang out with –– you would have been like, get the fuck out of here,” he tells Danielle.
“This is beyond my wildest imagination,” she replies. “In my lifetime, the potential of two?”
A true partnership with a ‘strong Black woman’
Danielle wrote about Kamala this week for more for Zora magazine.
“Zora Neale Hurston wrote, through her character in “When Their Eyes Were Watching God,” that ‘Black women are the mules of the world,’” she says. “It goes back to the trope of the ‘strong Black woman’: We can carry everything on our backs.”
Toure agrees: “We understand that Black women are the spines of our families and our communities, and are the strength by which we, as Black men, are able to do what we’re able to do.”
But the newly minted veep nominee isn’t just any Black woman. It’s Senator Kamala Harris, former Attorney General of the nation’s largest state justice department. And she was chosen from a field of qualified, brilliant women, including several other Black women.
Biden didn’t “pull what the fucking Republicans did with Sarah Palin –– just pick some woman out of some obscure-ass place and say, we can teach her these tricks. Biden was looking for a partnership,” Danielle says.
Turning up the turnout
Kamala adds some serious electoral-math heft to the ticket as well.
Steve Kornacki recently pointed out the difference between Democratic candidates who get 59 to 60% of Black voter turnout (John Kerry, Hillary Clinton) and candidates who get 65 to 66% (Barack Obama and Barack Obama).
That 5% difference may not seem like much, but it’s a huge difference in some very important swing states, like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan.
“If Black people show up in these states, with their big populous cities, we win,” says Toure. “If they don't, although the margins are small, we won't.”
Kamala has been inspiring folks in the resistance for a long time, he adds. Her expert questioning in the Senate hearing room has made it clear that she's the kind of leader who's read the book and the footnotes. She’s prepared, she’s sharp and she takes no shit from Trump’s lackeys.
Who can forget the confirmation hearing where we saw Kamala “ripping Brett Kavanaugh's face off?” asks Toure.
“Or making William Barr stutter like a fool?” Danielle adds.
It’s Harris v. Trump, not Pence
The Twittersphere is abuzz over the prospect of seeing Kamala bring the heat in a debate with the pious, expressionless white-haired Ken doll that is Mike Pence.
But our hosts don’t give a fuck about the VP debate.
“I could care less about it, and who knows if Mike Pence's wife is going to allow him to attend anyway,” says Danielle.
After all, mother –– a literal Karen –– forbids her husband to be alone with another human who possesses a vagina.
They’d rather talk about how Kamala could apply those prosecutorial skills to Donald Trump.
“She's not running against the vice president,” Toure points out. “She will be skewering Donald Trump with a smile.”
America needs its own Nuremberg Trials
A few weeks ago, Joe Biden said he didn’t want to talk about prosecuting Donald Trump after he leaves office.
“What in the entire fuck are you talking about?” asks Danielle. “This man is a criminal. He has employed criminals. He has turned the DOJ into his personal law firm … He's been caught up in scheme after scheme.”
The announcement of Kamala as VP gives her hope that Trump will be brought to justice.
“If we don’t have our version of the Nuremberg Trials, whoever manifests themselves in his place will be worse. Because they will be smarter.”
She thinks it was a mistake for the Obama administration’s decision to give George W. Bush a pass for war crimes, just as it was for Ford to let Nixon off the hook.
“If you do not hold criminals accountable, you embolden other criminals to figure out what they did wrong and to do it better.”
‘Give Kamala the keys’
While bringing Trump to justice sounds absolutely delicious, Toure is optimistic about Kamala’s influence on issues that affect our lives on a day-to-day basis, like criminal justice reform and addressing the wealth gap.
“I don't pretend to think that Kamala will be a co-president,” Toure says. “But I would expect that Joe, given his experience with Barack, will give Kamala the keys to do some important things.”
Specifically, he hopes that her experience as a prosecutor will lend itself to meaningful action toward police reform.
And not just because of what he thinks is a “wrongful reputation that some try to saddle her with –– that she's a cop,” he says.
It was a different era when she began her career as a prosecutor. “You had to be tough on crime to get elected,” Toure adds.
“And then the mood of the country changed, and she changed with it. She tried to be a more progressive prosecutor and did some innovative things. I hope she's able to bring that kind of thoughtfulness to her portfolio in the Oval Office.”
Perfectionist progressives: ‘Get woke to reality’
It’s not that we can’t levy constructive criticisms against Kamala or Joe. But Danielle agrees with Toure that Kamala’s career has to be considered in context.
Unfortunately, the Democratic party is great at “cannibalizing itself,” she says, “and falling on the cross of perfectionism.”
“Kamala has had to navigate a woefully white male-dominated space,” Danielle adds. “You don't get to become Attorney General by not playing the game.”
And you can’t become a senator without demonstrating an ability to work on both sides of the aisle.
Activism, especially as it pertains to criminal justice reform, is often an all-or-nothing proposition, says Danielle. Even though she hosts a daily podcast called Woke AF, she thinks that those of us in “woke culture” sometimes “cut off our nose to spite our face.”
Hard-line progressives see Kamala as a ‘cop’ and say we need radical change.
“I don't know how you do radical change if you're dead,” Danielle argues. “I don't know how you do radical change if you are locked up in a detention center … how you do the work when you're in shackles. That's the reality. That's what you need to get fucking woke to.”
Putting the primary in perspective
For Danielle, “the pros truly outweigh the cons” when it comes to Kamala’s track record.
To those who point out that Kamala’s campaign didn’t even last until Super Tuesday, she argues that it’s because “Black people are always forced into impossible positions, guided by how we think white people will fucking vote.”
Kamala couldn’t break away from the gigantic primary pack not just because she wasn't as progressive as Sanders or Warren, but because “she didn’t have the resources to blanket the airwaves like Steyer or Bloomberg.”
Plus, Toure says, “Biden was tied to the legacy of Barack Obama, which meant that Black voters over 55 were all about him. That held his campaign aloft for a long time.”
He adds: “In an alternate universe where Biden, for whatever reason, decided to not go ahead, we very well would be looking at candidate Harris right now.”
‘Not Black enough’ is white supremacist B.S.
It’s not necessarily new, but in the past week, Toure has noticed something that’s “fingernails-on-a-chalkboard grating”: the claim that Kamala isn’t actually African-American because her mom is from India and her dad is an immigrant from Jamaica.
“I don't know how you think he got to Jamaica, but okay,” he says.
“It wasn’t the Carnival Cruise line? Or Royal Caribbean?”
“It was the Royal Caribbean from hell,” Toure quips. “Yeah, she doesn't directly descend from American slaves, but she is Black. She’s from Oakland. Howard University.”
Toure says that in person, “you have no question that you are talking to a sister. That she cares about Black people. Black culture is very much who she is and what she's all about.”
Danielle, who is herself the child of Jamaican immigrants, makes the point that those kinds of attacks are based on white supremacist philosophy.
“The idea that there’s some gradation of Blackness –– what was it? One drop. That's what the fuck made you Black.”
It’s ludicrous that now, an immigrant to the U.S. from anywhere in the African diaspora is somehow not Black, she argues.
“There are differences in our cultures and in our acculturation, but in the broader world, we are all Black.”
Say it with us: ‘Comma-la’
Kamala has been famous for several years now. She’s one of the most prominent members of the Senate and, of course, was a major presidential candidate. Still, many professional political pundits still struggle with pronouncing her name correctly.
“It's not just Tucker Carlson, who's doing it out of rank disrespect,” says Toure. “I still hear Michael Steele mispronouncing her name. People who pronounced Buttigieg and Klobuchar correctly over and over can't get Kamala. It's comma-la, not kah-mah-la.”
“Or “cam-ah-la,” adds Danielle.
From the base to the face of the party
Toure is thrilled that his daughter, even though she’s probably too young to consciously take it in now, will see that “this level of leadership is real and tangible for a Black girl.”
For so long, Black women have labored under “the expectation of failure … of raggedy-ness, of ratchet-ness. So I'm happy to see Kamala alongside Oprah, Serena, Ava, Kerry, and on and on, who are showing … that we can rock the world.”
Danielle once wrote that we talk about Black women being the base of the Democratic Party, but we will never allow them to be the face of the Democratic Party.
To her, Kamala Harris has transcended that notion.
“Now, to have this beautiful Black face as the face of the future ... I'm overwhelmed.”
Toure feels the same.
“Yeah, we can say it –– she's beautiful. She's cool. She's extremely smart … and to see Democratic voters so excited and so ready to vote for her … God forbid something happens to Joe, she’s ready. No question about that. It gives me goosebumps.”
Trump’s reaction: ‘phony’ it in
Kamala has been the favorite for the VP nod for months. But the Trump campaign doesn’t seem to have a cohesive strategy to counter the Biden/Harris ticket.
“Here we are, with about 80 days left, and Trump has no idea how to attack them,” says Toure. “But still, he has nothing, except ‘Phony Kamala,’ and ‘Sleepy Joe.’
Danielle says it’s further proof that “Donald Trump is scared. Nothing scares him more than a Black woman.”
That’s why we're pretty certain that we're going to have a country next week. And God willing, a Black vice president soon enough.
All together now: Pray about it.
Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Toure as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle — together!