Is Kamala Harris Black? The answer's obvious, but America's especially dumb this year, so we'll have to address some absurd bad-faith arguments about the future vice president's ethnic background.

Conservative and self-proclaimed expert in Black-people-logy Mark Levin was among the first who attempted to de-sister Harris.

LEVIN: I want to take a look at Kamala Harris ... with you right now.

Just 10 seconds in and it's already gross. Levin shows us pictures of Harris's apparently non-negroid features (I'm surprised he didn't do a side-by-side with Stacey Abrams).

LEVIN: I'm not going to be a stickler about this, but the media will insist on it. Kamala Harris is not an African-American.

I'm not sure I agree 100 percent with your police work there, Mark.

For The People Reaction GIF by Kamala Harris Giphy

Not all Black people can dance, of course. My wedding video is People's Exhibit A. Still, Harris had me fooled, but I've only been Black professionally for 46 years. Let's further explore Levin's argument.


LEVIN: She is Indian and Jamaican.

Levin helpfully explained that Jamaica is in the Caribbean and India is “out there near China." He dismissively gestured into the distance when mentioning India.

Thanks to local genocidal crackpot Christopher Columbus, enslaved Africans were introduced to Jamaica in the 15th Century. The majority of Jamaicans are of Sub-Saharan African ancestry. Kamala Harris ain't from Norway.

LEVIN: I only point that out ...

Because you're racist and uniformed?

LEVIN: If you dare raise that, you're attacked.

No, you big snowflake baby, you're just told that you're wrong.

LEVIN: Her ancestry doesn't go back to American slavery.

First place, that's not what African-American means. Conservatives tried the same bullshit with Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya. It's sickening that the same people who resent The 1619 Project and keep telling Black people that “slavery is over, get over it" are seeking to restrict our identity to a confirmed history of enslavement. We don't define ourselves solely by the extent to which white people fucked us over. "Life is bigger than you, and you are not me."

The following section from Clint Smith's poem in The 1619 Project directly links Jamaica to the chains of the Atlantic slave trade.

I pull my index finger from Angola'
to Brazil & feel the bodies jumping from the ship.

I drag my thumb from Ghana
to Jamaica & feel the weight of dysentery make an anvil of my touch.

I slide my ring finger from Senegal
to South Carolina & feel the ocean separate a million families.

The soft hum of history spins
on its tilted axis. A cavalcade of ghost ships
wash their hands of all they carried.

The reason so many Black women wept with joy when Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate is because she shares a cultural identity that Levin could never understand even if he tried. I understand there's a conservative impulse to diminish Black joy, but Levin can't erase that genuine connection with some half-assed race theory.

It's not just conservatives showing their ass on this point. (If you missed Dinesh D'Souza and Diamond & Silk in Dok's post, go there after you're finished here.)

Author Thomas Chatterton Williams suggested (wrongly) that Harris's Blackness “in an American sense is contrived." Look, you don't have to dismiss the other parts of her heritage to recognize that Harris's life experiences are those of a Black woman. Racists also don't ask to see a signed notarized document confirming your Blackness before discriminating against you. There was nothing “contrived" about the distinct difference in how the media and punditry treated Harris last year compared to Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand. All four women senators were subject to misogyny but Harris's coverage repeatedly veered into misogynoir.

Zaid Jilani with the Intercept claimed that when Harris ran for district attorney almost 20 years ago in San Francisco, she "campaigned heavily towards Indian-Americans, highlighted the fact she used to go to temple as a child, her childhood, cultural upbringing."

What a scandal! Harris's mother was born and raised in India. If Obama fondly recalled eating his mother's green bean casserole at Thanksgiving, that doesn't mean his Blackness is arbitrary. Jilani argued that because "different aspects of [Harris's] heritage have been highlighted at different times based on the political environment," that means racial identity is fluid and subject to social dynamics.

Harris is authentically part of two rich cultural heritages, but we know her Blackness isn't “fluid." I'm reminded of what Zora Neale Hurston said.

I feel my race. Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself. When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again

Madame Vice President can relate.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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