The historic announcement of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s VP pick is another reminder that multiple things can be true at the same time. Harris is undeniably brilliant, has recently introduced bills that would specifically improve the quality of live for Black Americans, and by all accounts she is superior in every way imaginable to the current president. In fact, adding her to the ticket has made me far more enthusiastic about this race than I was even days before the announcement.
Throughout this campaign, Biden has said things that made me question his understanding of the Black community, let alone his commitment to fight against social inequality. And yet, here we are, squarely seated in that space where many truths exist at once. Does Biden give me pause? Oh, absolutely. Do I believe he will be a better leader than Trump? Without a shadow of a doubt. But is that the bar? Are millions of Americans expected to capitulate to such a defeating standard from our future leaders?
That question lingered in the air of every political conversation I had with my peers over the past few months. Yet with the announcement that caught very few of us by surprise, a jolt of excitement was inserted back into this election. Rightfully so. While lots of articles will focus on the historical weight of this moment, we cannot ignore that Harris isn’t just representation. She is a viable force who has the skills to be the vice-president of the United States. This will undoubtedly bring out more support for the ticket. However, here we are again, still parked at that intersection and carefully holding space for multiple facts to exist at the same time.
While I wholeheartedly still believe in the power of voting, I’m now more committed to what I call zoning in
What does this selection mean for those of us who had fair criticism of Harris when she was running for president? How do we even express this concern knowing that our policy-based questions could be conflated with the sea of misogynoir she will surely face? If Hillary Clinton faced an insane amount of hatred and sexism, what does this mean for Harris in a country where we are still fighting to declare that Black lives actually matter?
I was one of the people who publicly expressed concern about Harris during her presidential campaign. A few key things have changed since then. She impressed me with her actions, and I’m hoping that this apparent pivot is what voters can expect of her. Yet more importantly than her recent actions, my politics have changed.
While I wholeheartedly still believe in the power of voting, I’m now more committed to what I call zoning in. I’m narrowing the focus of my political efforts and treating voting as simply one tool for change. This change in my political view has caused me to emotionally divest more from a failing two-party system that often places its most vulnerable citizens in the position of choosing between how slowly we want to be metaphorically killed. This is my truth.
Yet it is also true that I intend to vote for the Biden and Harris ticket because I believe they present a better chance at improving the lives of marginalized communities than this current administration. I will do this while increasing my efforts to organize on a local level and use every weapon at my disposal to fight for a path for justice that isn’t predicated on me choosing between the “lesser of two evils”. Simultaneously, while Harris starts to fight like hell to re-energize the Democratic base, I’ll use my position as a writer to push back on unfair attacks on her that are simply misogynoir masked as criticism. This nomination almost guarantees that valid criticism and utter hatred of Black women will be on full display, and we will have to quickly learn the difference and respond accordingly.
For those currently expressing concern, I challenge you to sit with it a minute and consider if this concern was ever present for any of the other highly questionable candidates. I invite those with criticism to still express it and demand the best from Harris, but I will challenge them to interrogate the root of their angst. I intend to do the same. I’m going to stand with Harris and fight against sexist and racist attacks, celebrate with the Black women who are rejoicing in pride, while I simultaneously organize on a local level and strategize ways to help ensure my community gets more than just a false sense of hope from this ticket. All of this can happen at the same time.
Shanita Hubbard is an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania