O P I N I O N – P O L I T I C S
Lamia Taz Noor
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were officially sworn in during the inauguration at the Capitol on 20 January. The country, as well as the entire globe, celebrated the historic moment as an African-Asian woman took office as the vice president for the first time in American history. It is indeed a historic moment, and a source of immense pride for many coloured women all around the world.
However, while Kamala Harris has been on the forefront of every news headline, the people have not forgotten her far from perfect career as a prosecutor and the senator of California, where she had blatantly violated the same human and constitutional rights that she now swears to uphold. Let’s take a tour of her political decisions and agendas before putting her on a pedestal and branding her as the epitome of female empowerment, when she has previously done things to severely hinder the empowerment of women of colour and people from minority backgrounds.
From the onset of her career as the district attorney, Kamala took some really controversial steps. She claimed that life imprisonment without parole would be a better punishment than the death penalty, and also pledged that she would never impose the death penalty herself. Kamala remained true to her words when she refused to charge the death penalty to the accused of murdering an innocent young police officer, even after she was in tremendous pressure from the Attorney General, her colleagues and the media.
But when she became the Attorney General, Kamala not only defended the death penalty but appealed against the decision to abolish the practice. This stark contradiction to her own principles can be observed throughout her career. Kamala motioned to reform California’s three-strike law and charge life imprisonment, only in case of major felonies as the third crime.
But in practice, when the Proposition 66 initiative was proposed — allowing voters reform the three-strikes law that sent thousands of inmates on life imprisonment for as little as petty acts like shoplifting, car and possession charge — Kamala Harris urged voters to reject the Proposition and continued to lock up people for life for minor charges. She also supported the Trump administration in fuelling their atrocities and war crimes in Iran and Syria.
Kamala, who is now being celebrated for breaking the glass ceiling in a male dominant field and representing her African-Indian heritage, was often the one who added to the plight of Black people and the minority communities.
Kamala also has a history of making people of the community she represents face harsh consequences by backing up agendas that benefitted her, or because she wanted to avoid taking political risks. With her defending the previously mentioned three-strikes law, thousands of people were forced to spend the rest of their lives in jail and it significantly affected the Black people, where the rate of wrongful incarceration was astronomically higher. She also refused to exonerate a man who had been wrongfully convicted, even after he had stayed 13 years in prison.
Not only that, Kamala also advocated to jail parents for their kids’ chronic truancy. People coming from lower income households, people of colour, and especially single parents really bore the brunt of her legislature. A lot of single mothers had to spend as much as a year in jail with a fine of $2000 while leaving their children under no competent custody because their kids had missed more than 10 percent of their school attendance.
As an attorney general, Kamala publicly said that she didn’t support the installment of body cameras for police officers when that law was proposed with a view to reduce police brutality and bias against African Americans. This gained her a lot of backlash from the African-American community and Black Lives Matter activists. Alongside being ignorant to the racial crimes against the Black people, Kamala also failed to stand up to the racial injustices faced by people who shared her Indian heritage. Kamala backed the authorities when a Sikh man was ousted for his job as a security guard for his religiously mandated beard. Kamala argued that his beard disturbed his wearing a mask, and thus was grounds for removing him from the job.
Harris’s stances were often criticised as too cautious and too calculating, and that she often turned her back on the people who got her where she is. Her political views often contradicted her own Democratic Party’s.
Kamala being among the Democratic liberals who are avid supporters of LGBTQ+ communities, refused to let a transgender inmate conduct their gender reassignment surgery. She also fought against the legalisation of prostitution and sex work. These actions certainly don’t vouch for her liberal approach.
Kamala has been seen contradicting herself on several occasions whenever the situation deemed fit. Despite her talk of rehabilitation and re-integration, Kamala led residency restrictions on all sex offenders, which resulted in the rise of homelessness and increased the risk of reoffending due to their homeless situation.
Today, Kamala Harris is seen as a source of inspiration for her political achievements as a woman of colour. Many women-led organisations and social media feminist groups are applauding her for making it to the second highest position in the government despite all odds. Although she made history as the first African-Indian woman to be elected vice president, to what extent is this blind idolising justified when throughout her career she has taken several steps that contributed to her own political climbing and not to the welfare of the people she represented? She often neglected the rights of the Black and minority communities who now applaud her success with a sense of their own achievement.
The entire world released a collective breath of relief after Trump was defeated in the presidential election. But Ms Kamala’s record tells us that she has capitalised on her racial identity but continues to serve White nationalist ideals. Having an African-Indian woman in the Oval Office does create the impression of an inclusive government, but it serves no real purpose if the rights of the people she is supposed to be representing are not progressed.
So, feminist pages, you need to stop simping for Kamala and start being skeptical about what just representation truly brings on the table.