EDITORIAL: Kamala Harris Following in Shirley Chisholm’s Footsteps? Not So Fast

Sen. Kamala Harris, the California Democrat and barrier-breaking former prosecutor, used a ton of symbols during a carefully-choreographed announcement on King Day 2019 to formally throw down the gauntlet. She’s officially a candidate for president of the United States.

Harris joins three other women who have already declared their candidacy, continuing the recent surge of women entering the political arena — some taking over political seats long-dominated by men — mostly white, gray-haired, or balding, men.

Some political pundits assert that the timing of Harris’s announcement was meant to evoke memories and the spirit of the incomparable Shirley Chisholm, the New York congresswoman who, 47 years ago this week, became the first woman to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

We congratulate Harris for her courage and commitment to the American people and we certainly look forward to hearing her present her plans. But a lot of Blacks say they are more concerned with supporting a candidate that can beat Republican Donald Trump, assuming he runs for a second term, rather than blindly giving their endorsement to a candidate based solely on their gender or race.
We don’t want to open that can of worms. But we do have some serious questions for Harris, particularly as they relate to her previous support for several “tough-on-crime” initiatives during her time as California’s prosecutor.

We have some real issues with her defense of the death penalty which she defended as late as 2015. And we’re nonplussed with her advocating for a legislative bill that sought to punish parents for chronically truant children.

In addition, Harris, the child of a Tamil Indian mother and a Jamaican father, has been somewhat evasive when stating how she describes herself ethnically. In these days, calling oneself a person of color, or calling oneself Black do not always mean the same thing. Even Barack Obama knew enough to claim his African roots and came to the forefront as a self-described Black man. With Harris, that has not been the case.

Finally, Harris may have to deal with her husband’s skin color — white — which may be a deal breaker for some voters, even though we wish that America had moved beyond such irrelevant issues.

Harris is a proven winner, a skilled negotiator and an admirable force on the national political scene.

But as of yet, we cannot envision her as the second coming of Shirley Chisholm.

Not before she sits down with the Black Press and “talks turkey.”

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