Reprinted with permission from Luther Campbell
Kamala Harris will have trouble persuading black voters to make her president in 2020. First, the U.S. senator from California must explain why Donald Trump has a better prison-reform record than she had as the Golden State’s attorney general. Then she’ll have to overcome the perception she’ll do anything to climb to the top.
On the street, many blue-collar African-Americans, especially men, have already made up their minds not to vote for her. Between 2004 and 2016, when Harris worked as San Francisco’s district attorney and state attorney general, she supported legislation that sent kids who skipped school to jail. And she opposed federal supervision of California’s prisons after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared the overcrowded facilities inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on inmates.
When she appealed a court order to implement new parole programs, Harris cited the need to use prisoners as slave labor to fight wildfires and pick up highway trash.
Though black voters want politicians who’ll put away thugs and killers terrorizing the neighborhood, they don’t support those who deny defendants rehabilitation and send them to prison for crimes they didn’t commit to line private prison companies’ pockets.
Harris rose to prominence in California after an affair with married, but separated, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who recently wrote a column that mentioned their relationship. Brown said he influenced Harris’ career by appointing her to two state commissions when he was California Assembly speaker. He also helped her in her first race for San Francisco district attorney.
When Harris, whose mother is from India and father is from Jamaica, decided it was time to take her talents to Washington, D.C., she married Douglas Emhoff, a rich white lawyer. For better or worse, black men don’t want to vote for a black woman who married a white man or was the mistress of a powerful black man.
Like everyone else, black voters want help from one of their own. The Bushes made sure their people got oil money. Bill Clinton let the telecommunications industry gobble up small radio and TV stations. And Donald Trump is looking out for his developer buddies through a tax cut and opportunity zones that gentrify minority neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Harris has let black people know they can’t count on her.