Kamala Harris, The Presidential Race and the Race Card

Before I begin this post, please allow me to state what I am sure will get lost in translation. To those whom race was cast upon like paint on an assembly-line car, or like sprinkles on ice cream placed to intensify the flavor absent in what lies beneath, race is not a card. Specifically, those Americanized by western influence as opposed to those who seize and adopt an American identity, cannot and do not employ race as a card.

This statement is not to mark victimhood, but to note that which has been cast upon the black collective for the benefit of others, that which enters the room before personhood arrives, is not a card to be played, but a “play” in a rigged game. To those who pursue and implement a raceless body politic, race is a card embodied by the model minority our shared oppressor grants the black fruit who has forgetten its roots. This performance is precisely what the world witnessed with California Senator Kamala Harris’s performance in the second democratic debate.

During the debate, when a mirage of candidates spoke over one another in an effort to both prove their presence and solidify their right to candidacy, Harris inserted a scripted line so strategically placed that it appeared impromtu. Harris jumped into the verbal melee with now trending line:

“Americans don’t want to see a food fight, they want to talk about how they’re going to put food on the table.”

So while Senator Harris may not bring food to the referenced political food fight, her seat at the table makes her an avid participant–an avid participant who knows she is unlikely to win a food fight with food. Instead, Harris seeks a victory in siding with those without food. Particularly, Harris’s words resonated with many because it exposed the other candidates as self-centered Americans vested more in hearing themselves talk then in hearing the needs of the American people. Harris, as a woman and self-proclaimed person of color, inserts herself as she who remembers what the other, paler, candidates forgot. 

This “foodless” victory is perpahs best personfied by those who smiled or gloated in Harris’s words, those seemingly oblivious to this performance reflecting strategy not empathy. This movement proved merely a warm-up for an exchange with candidate Joe Biden that made Harris a memorable candidate and debate standout. Harris’s heightened status as viable democratic candidate translated to virtually everything for America and nothing for the black community. 

When asked about a police shooting, Harris transitioned to a discussion about bussing. This transition enabled Harris to employ a personal anecdote which exposed Biden as a political segregationist. The message was clear: Harris pre-selected Biden as her biggest competition and precisely executed a plan to take him down. Specifically, Biden’s proximity to Former president Obama is possibly his most valuable asset. This proximity allows Biden to embody a sort of political and even historical nostalgia that supersedes his past political acts. Harris sullied this nostalgia with an anecdote of being the little girl bussed to what would become the foundation for her political presence. This ancedote illustrated Biden as embodying the obstacles non-whites must overcome to thrive in America. Harris’s curated move cornered Biden and pulled his political pedestal from beneath him on national television. 

Harris’s move was a brilliant one, enabled by her self-categorization as a black person deprived of American status and human rights by a powerful white man. Though noted as a victory in the press, Harris’s move employs race as a card Harris plays to dismantle her white opponent when she isn’t even running as a black candidate. If we are being completely honest, Harris is not even a black senator, nor was she a black prosecutor. That is of course if “black,” means for the black community, but I digress.

Truth is, Harris is only taken seriously as a candidate because like former president Barack Obama, Harris embodies an incidental blackness. Harris, like Obama, bears no direct linearity to America’s original sin, western enslavement. Thus, America can look at these candidates and look past not directly at America’s unabridged narrative. Instead, Harris’s blackness is an occassional marker to be played like a card in a game of spades or poker. 

This is not to say that Biden’s hypocrisy and racism was not worthy of exposition, it was. This is to say that Harris’s actions are not about educational equality for black youth. No, Harris’s actions, specifically, her evoked blackness, reflected a selfish attempt to win by any means necessary. To put it bluntly, Harris’s bussing comments tossed black people under a bus enlisted to run over her white opponent.  

I’ll be honest, I was previously an adamant believer that race could never be a card to anyone of African descent. However, when a black person pursues and attains relevancy or prominence from their American status, but evokes race to avoid losing to the very faction they attempt to imitate, race is a card actualized as, not as a core identity factor.

This idea of race as a card exploited by those who pander to the black community on the basis of re-presentation, is not something to take lightly. Specifically, though Harris employed her race as a means to usurp Biden, should Harris make her way into the White House, the black collective will remain on the back burner as non-black women, lgbt rights, and migrants remain central, while Harris’s incidental blackness functions to display America’s “progess.” Harris illustrates what the white world, in its contemporary fixation on black representation, seduces the black collective to forget–that black candidates are only as black as the issues they pursue. 

For race is not a card, convenience, or even a color—it’s a circumstance, an experience, a visualized violence personified in a cyclical disenfranchisement only altered in a refusal to look back its detrimental effect on its first victims.

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