Throughout her political career, Vice President Kamala Harris has never shied away from issues of race. In fact, the former California Senator, State Attorney General, and San Francisco District Attorney was very intentional about addressing issues that have their roots in our nation’s original sin. And it’s not about to stop now.
“We just have to tell the truth, no matter how painful it is to speak or hear,” Harris told me Friday in a phone interview. “And the truth remains that racism is real in America. Sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, all of these things are real in our country. Saying it doesn’t mean it’s a massive attack on the country. But it’s definitely about saying, “Look, let’s not approach this either with a sense of naivety or denial.” “
Harris is the first black person, the first American-Indian and the first woman elected vice president, which is why Harris said: “I feel a heavy responsibility to use the chair of bully that I have of a way that aims to elevate public discourse and engage in educating the public on issues that [others] maybe not thought of or not presented with some perspective.
This prospect is invaluable, especially this week. For in the annals of America’s heavy race history, this seven-day period we now find ourselves in is the most miserable because of what we have to remember.
May 25 marked one year since the murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis policeman. May 31 and June 1 will mark the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre which killed up to 300 blacks in a hail of bullets and turpentine bombs dropped, and completely destroyed their thriving community of Greenwood known as of Black Wall Street. In the sweep of history between these two tragic events, so much has changed, and yet too much remains the same.
But we speak more openly and honestly about race and racism today. This “we” includes President Joe Biden and Harris. Many of their predecessors handled racing issues like we tiptoe across the thinnest ice – if they haven’t avoided them altogether. Biden and Harris aren’t afraid to take them head on, perhaps because the ubiquitous topic of race has become so inevitable.
Harris told the White House the truth last month after Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder. “Black men are fathers and brothers and sons and uncles and grandfathers and friends and neighbors,” she said at the time. As a black man, I was struck by Harris’ determination to say these words. “I was very determined saying all of this. . . because these men are loved. These men love it, ”Harris told me.
The vice president said she was “in awe” of the Floyd family after their visit to the White House this week, praising their pursuit of police reform amid their continued grief. The centerpiece of this reform is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which Harris co-wrote with Senator Cory Booker, DN.J., while she was still in the Senate.
Harris was also impressed after meeting two survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Viola “Mother” Fletcher, 107, and her younger brother, Hughes Van Ellis, 100. “They were so extraordinary in terms of grace, dignity and the depth of their pain that they still carry.
What happened in Tulsa was more than a tragedy. Harris called it a “crime”. A crime the white Tulsa first tried to blame on their black neighbors before claiming it never happened. A crime that Black Tulsa and Black America would never forget. Harris told me that it was the “intentionality” of the crime that set her apart.
OW Gurley bought 40 acres of land in Tulsa in 1906 and called it Greenwood. The resulting black community flourished despite Jim Crow’s laws meant to delay black citizenship and advancement. The intentionality involved in creating such success was met by the intentionality of White Tulsa to destroy it.
“It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a fight that got out of hand,” Harris said. “It was willful destruction.”
This century-old crime and the murder of George Floyd in 2020 are testament to America’s never-ending cycle of race progress and regression. Harris thinks we can break this cycle, “but to have meaningful change it takes real and meaningful intervention.” This means addressing the racial wealth gap by addressing access to capital for minority-owned businesses, expanding home ownership, and expanding broadband access. All the issues Harris has worked on since taking office.
However, deeds must be matched with words. “So there are a lot of things we need to do. But we have to tell the truth, and I have to tell you that this is where we cannot let go. Again, no matter how hard it can be to hear, ”said Harris.
After four years of an administration that inundated the American people with white nationalism, white grievances and their associated lies, telling the truth is exactly what this nation needs from the White House right now. And I’m all for Harris not to be afraid to say so.
Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Washington Post editorial board, writes on politics and social issues, and is the host of the “Cape Up” podcast.