5 Groups Kamala Harris Needs To Win Over To Secure The Black Vote

Five intersections of the Black community Kamala Harris needs to redeem herself with to secure the Democratic ticket for the 2020 presidential election.

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| March 09 2019,

6:46 pm

On Martin Luther King Day, Kamala Harris announced her decision to run Democratic nod for the 2020 presidential election. The theme of her campaign resembles that of Shirley Chisholm's run for the presidency, which launched over four decades prior. Most importantly, the Oakland native spent the day of her announcement at a press conference on Howard University’s campus, her alma mater and one of the nation's oldest historically Black universities.

Many firsts in her career include becoming the first African American and the first woman ever to be elected as San Francisco district attorney in 2003 as well as becoming California’s first Black attorney general in 2010. However, Harris became a national figure when she became the second Black female Senator for California. As Senator made a point to vehemently question now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s amid his sexual assault allegations. Additionally, she became a co-sponsor of Alexandria Ocaso-Cortez's Green New Deal. Prior to the launch of her campaign, Harris also stood in solidarity with Black mothers, declaring the high mortality rate they face is an "issue about race."

All of this alone — though beautifully executed and strategically encompassed in Black culture — will not be enough for Harris to win the Black vote.

Aside from Harris’ seemingly progressive stances on social issues and civil rights, her record as California’s prosecutor exemplified a rather different perspective, which has some questioning how far left she actually leans. Black folks are looking for a candidate who will advocate on the behalf of their needs, and there’s been a bit of concern that Harris might not.

To secure her bid for the Democratic ticket in the upcoming presidential election, Harris will have to win over different demographics of Black folks, who are curious to find out whether or not she’s genuinely become a progressive candidate since her time as attorney general. Here are five Black demographics Harris will have to get on her side before the Black vote is 100 percent in her favor.

1. The Black Transgender Community

As attorney general, Harris made a decision that, despite her recent efforts, did not effectively support LGBTQ rights. In 2015, she along with her team of attorneys released a legal brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ultimately denied gender reassignment for an incarcerated citizen, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy.

When asked at a campaign rally what she had to say in regards to her decision, Harris said she takes “full responsibility" for the decisions that were made.

According to Out Magazine, when the senator was asked if she supported fully state-funded surgery for the incarcerated trans community, she perhaps avoided a straight answer.

“I believe that we are at a point where we have got to stop vilifying people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and we’ve got to understand that when we are talking about a particular transgender community, for too long they have been the subject of bias, and frankly, a lack of understanding about their circumstance and their physical needs in addition to any other needs they have, and it’s about time that we have a better understanding of that,” said Harris.

To win over the Black transgender community, Harris is going to need to provide straight answers.

2. Black Sex Workers

Harris recently spoke with the hosts of "Call Your Girlfriend" podcast about her choice to advocate for the termination of Backpage.com, a website that reportedly made sex work safer for its users. The hosts grilled Harris about her previous work to shut down the website.

According to The Daily Beast, despite prosecution still being illegal, activists have pushed to dismantle the discrimination for years, and sex workers have proven to show up and show out in previous elections. For Harris to earn their votes, it seems like it would be in her best interest to join them and do the same.

3. Black Activists

Activist Johnetta Elzie, who protested in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown in 2014, had hard questions for Harris after she opposed the regulatory proposal for police officers to wear body cameras.

“Having lived through the experience of protesting in Ferguson, and knowing the impact body cameras could’ve had on catalyzing our moment, I couldn’t understand her position,” Elzie told Slate reporters. “I want her to sit with someone willing to ask the hard questions and dissect her reasoning. I just want her to explain ‘why.’”

 “I’m going to have some point of caution with anybody who used to be a prosecutor,” LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund told the New York Times.“The entire system is flawed, the way that people are prosecuted, and the unfairness that black people experience in the court system,” she continued.

4. Black Men

Harris has a record of doing the opposite of alleviating the pains of mass incarceration Black communities endure. Due to her failure to keep Black men out of prison during her tenure as attorney general, Black men, like Oakland resident and co-host of @HellaBlackPod, Blake Simons, is not happy with Harris' decision to run.

CNN reports in 2004 Harris launched Back on Track, a program which presented young people with first-time drug offenses the option to participate in apprenticeship and training programs, opposed to serving long prison sentences.

As she campaigns, Harris will have to prove she still supports this kind of work towards ending the mass incarceration of Black males.

5. Black Millennials

Black millennial voters were hard on Democrats in 2018 midterms, and most likely won't let up in 2020.

Millennial voters have been deemed more progressive, and have proven to be collectively against non-progressive values. These voters get a large sum of their news via social media, and compared to previous generations, have the most access to a rapid surge of information, which can make or break their support for a particular candidate. Furthermore, millennials are paying attention: They are more likely to hear about a candidate on social media, where criticism of Ms. Harris’ tenure as a prosecutor has heavily circulated, and their political consciousness has been shaped by the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality.

In some ways, Harris has voted against Black folks in her previous jobs. However, this doesn't mean she will continue to make detrimental decisions that hinder the progress of the Black community. She still has time to make decisions that can benefit Black folks leading up to the 2020 presidential election. If her campaign includes a genuine effort to reconcile with the varying intersections of the Black community she has seemingly offended, the odds may work in her favor. With a visible increase in Black voter mobilization over the past few years, Harris will have to make sure she's visibly mobilizing for Black folks, too.

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