It hasn’t even been a full day since Democratic nominee Joe Biden announced that California Senator and former Attorney General Kamala Harris will be his vice-president, and Harris already endured a repulsive barrage of racism, misogyny, and outright lies from President Trump and his cronies. Barely hours after the news broke, Trump was trashing her in a press conference as “extraordinarily nasty” and publishing ads smearing her as “phony” and a “radical leftist.”
While that was to be expected, they turned the racism up to eleven on Wednesday morning as her very identity was turned into a punching bag by opportunistic right-wingers. On today’s episode of FOX and Friends, the co-chair of “Black Voices for Trump,” Stacy Washington, attacked Kamala for being not black enough and accused her of being descended from slaveowners.
Recounting the infamous primary debate moment when Kamala criticized Biden for his opposition to school integration, Washington said that “she peeled the skin off of him, roasted him and had him for lunch over the fact that he opposed busing back in the day. And she was a little girl who was bused to another school district….so she has really played up this idea that she’s a traditional Black American like myself and so many others who count ourselves among the millions of Black people who are descended from slaves…But she’s not descended from slaves. She’s descended from slave owners… Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris because she’s a Black woman but to most Black Americans, she’s not.”
Washington’s words were only the latest in what is obviously a coordinated campaign, led by notorious conspiracist and historical revisionist Dinesh D’Souza, from the unrepentantly racist Trump team in order to undermine her credibility with African-American voters, as the narrative has been ferociously pushed across right-wing social media spheres over the past twelve hours.
Here are the names of the 200+ slaves owned by Kamala Harris’ ancestor Hamilton Brown in Jamaica in 1817. One of the largest planters in Jamaica, Brown now has a town named after him, Brown’s Town pic.twitter.com/6QnBpEQyez
— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) August 12, 2020
By what contortion of logic can one be
with two white great-grandmothers (at least one of whom descended from a prominent slave owner)
— Dr. Gina – America’s Voice News (@RealDrGina) August 11, 2020
Fox News guest says Kamala Harris shouldn't be considered "African-American" because she "is from the legacy of" slave owners https://t.co/k1TiLEiVtp
— Media Matters (@mmfa) August 12, 2020
The gleeful racism that accompanies the narrative is repulsive to behold:
.@KamalaHarris comes from a racist family of slave owners & slave traders from Jamaica. Her family only looks a little like African Americans, but they are Jamaican Indians who enslaved Africans for profit. Now, .@SenKamalaHarris wants to run the "Democrat Plantation". pic.twitter.com/HbZMP3wuVt
— Glen Woodfin (@GlenWoodfin) August 11, 2020
A person’s racial and ethnic identity is a complex and very personal thing that rarely fits into the convenient categories that racists like to sort people into. Senator Harris can be black and Indian and Jamaican and American all at the same time if she wants to be, and nobody — especially not the people who support the man who threw Hispanic children into concentration camps — can tell her otherwise.
But what the right-wing really misses in their attempts to undermine her “Blackness” is the almost certainty that Kamala Harris is “descended” from slave owners because that slave owner forced himself upon a woman that he owned as property, a generational trauma that far too many Black Americans can identify with. So too can they empathize with their personal identities being policed in bad faith by politically motivated white people.
The speed with which Trumpworld has resorted to these kinds of smears is evidence that the prospect of Senator Harris on the campaign trail is very scary to them — and how little they have to throw at her.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.