Two weeks after a deadly insurrection showed the anger of some whites threatening the country’s multiracial democracy, a dramatically different scene unfolded on Capitol Hill.
On January 20, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took office.
The inauguration of the first woman, the first black woman, and the first person of South Asian descent after the aforementioned assault did two things at once: it marked a hopeful turning point in the long struggle for racial representation and justice, and He soberingly underlined that tackling white supremacism will be one of the main challenges for the new government.
Harris’s political rise, even in the past year and a half, is no cause for disdain. Perhaps most obviously, the former California senator’s rise to the vice presidency will literally change the face of power.
‘You can be the first to do a lot of things, but make sure you’re not the last’
There is no shortage of coverage on how the 2020 Democratic primary field, which Harris was a part of, began as one of the most remarkable in history. More specifically, the diversity of the list of people competing for the nomination was unprecedented: Latino, Asian, black, gay, female. However, in December 2019 Harris suspended his campaign. In those moments, the Democratic field gradually closed ranks around heterosexuality, whiteness, and masculinity in terms of the candidate to be chosen.
It was no small feat, then, when Biden chose Harris as his running mate in August. “I feel like black girls like me can run for class president. Black girls like me can go for the big things in life like her, ”Paris Bond, a teenager, told Citizen Free Press that month.
Or, as Harris’s late mother used to tell her daughter who broke through barriers, “Kamala, you can be the first to do a lot of things, but make sure you’re not the last.”
Kamala Harris’ power as vice president
Just as touching was when the Democratic duo defeated Trump in the November general election. Driven by a multiracial coalition, Biden and Harris not only thwarted the reelection campaign of a man who used his whiteness as a weapon, but also ended the perverse ostentation of a government that embraced aggressive masculinity.
However, as Vice President Kamala Harris will be able to offer more than token representation.
“Joe Biden’s vice president will probably be the most powerful vice president in history because the trend is towards more powerful vice presidents. Joe Biden knows the value of having a very responsible vice president, and Joe Biden will inherit an epic disaster, “said former Barack Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer last year, referring to the damage from the coronavirus pandemic.
Fight health disparity
Joe Biden: To heal, we must rememberKamala Harris has already indicated how she will fight a crisis unique in a century and the racial disparities that accompany it, disparities that are the result of a history of discriminatory policies.
Last May, he introduced the Covid-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act to “bring together health and other policy experts, community-based organizations, and federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders to address disparities. racial and ethnic aspects of this pandemic head on.
In December, Biden selected Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health and Administration at Yale University, to lead the health equity working group.
“Health care free from racism and discrimination is a right and not a privilege,” Nunez-Smith said during an online briefing last month. “It is time for us to respond to the crisis of discrimination in healthcare.”
In other words, Kamala Harris will change what power looks like and directly influence who she serves.
The Government of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris must confront white supremacism
But even with these triumphant dimensions, the new government will have to navigate the currents of resurgent white supremacism from the start.
In an interview with NPR last week, Harris did not mince words in his condemnation of the recent attack on the Capitol.
“It was the same thing that went through my mind when I saw Charlottesville,” he said. It’s the same thing that went through my mind when I saw a picture of Emmett Till. It is not the first time I have seen a demonstration like the one you are describing in the history of our country, “he added.
It makes sense that Harris drew parallels between the horror of the Trump years and the brutality of decades past. The seizure of the Capitol was a gruesome reminder that white supremacism has always been well cooked into the American fabric.
In fact, historians have pointed out how the takeover echoed the Reconstruction period in terms of the negative reaction of whites to racial equality.
A historical perspective
In 1873, for example, more than 150 armed white men, most affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, murdered between 60 and 150 members of a black militia. The militia had been defending the Grant Parish courthouse in Colfax, Louisiana, after the hotly contested state gubernatorial election of 1872.
“The Colfax massacre, the bloodiest case of racial carnage in the Reconstruction era, taught many lessons, including how far some opponents of Reconstruction would go to regain normal authority,” explains Columbia University professor Eric Foner in his 1988 book “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877”.
Usual authority. More than a century and a half after the end of the Civil War, the United States has yet to fully grapple with the enduring threat of white people’s right to political control, as evidenced by the assault on the Capitol by a mob waving the confederate flag.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Kamala Harris said in the interview.
However, there could be a consoling outlook for the carnage earlier this month.
The attack could give Biden and Harris the necessary political momentum to act more vigorously than some of their Democratic backgrounds to banish white supremacist groups and crack down on corruption and racism in police departments, Ronald Brownstein argued last week. .
America often assumes that it is better than it is, particularly when it comes to fueling racial progress. The new government will have the opportunity to shorten the distance between this assumption and reality.
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