Kamala Harris and the Harm of the Politics of Representation


Sofia Ahmed ’21
Staff Writer

Kamala Harris’s election as the first Black and Asian woman vice president of the United States marks an important milestone in US politics. Although Harris’ election is historic, her election also points to the harm that the politics of representation perpetuates.

In her seminal piece, “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy,” Andrea Smith discusses the issue with multicultural representation. She writes that the claim that “if we just include more people, then our practices will be less racist [is] not true.”

In Kamala Harris’ case, simply having a woman of color in power is not inherently liberatory or beneficial to communities of color. On the contrary, many of Harris’ policies have harmed communities of color.

Harris has called herself California’s “top cop,” and was the former attorney general of California. Police historically target low income communities of color. Activists in organizations such as Black Lives Matter have called for divestment from police as a strategy to shift money away from police and towards community initiatives such as education, housing, and healthcare. However, Biden and Harris have repeatedly expressed that they oppose defunding the police and plan to give more money to police departments.

During her time as attorney general, Harris opposed policies that would require police officers to wear body cams. She also did not support a 2015 California bill that would mandate investigations into cases of police killing civilians.

In Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign, she pledged to allocate $2 billion dollars to Countering Violent Terrorism (CVE) over the course of ten years. CVE is a program funded by the Department of Homeland Security that profiles Muslim Americans as prone to terrorism and pays community based teachers, health care workers, religious leaders, and social workers to act as informants in Muslim communities. Muslim activists have repeatedly pointed to how CVE is ineffective, harmful, and targets Muslim Americans based on their religious and racial identity. Harris’s support of CVE is another way in which she supports policing and surveillance that disproportionately harms communities of color.

It is no doubt refreshing to finally see a woman of color hold such a powerful position. However, we must be careful to not conflate political representation with racial justice or progress. We must continue to hold our elected officials accountable for the ways in which they have harmed the most marginalized members of our community.

Image Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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