Kamala Harris doesn’t have to pander to the black community. Really. She’s just making it worse at this point.
Ever since Rep. Tulsi Gabbard dismantled Harris on a debate stage during the Democratic primary in 2019 for Harris’ record as a prosecutor — with the implication she was behind “mass incarceration,” a big no-no with black voters — Harris has made sure to emphasize her African-American bona fides in ways that can be painful to see, at least for this white person watching Harris make faux pas like naming the very dead Tupac Shakur as the “best rapper alive.”
It’s little things like this that make it surprising no one paid attention to an anecdote that led off an obsequious October Elle Magazine profile of Harris, then still on the campaign trail with Joe Biden.
“Senator Kamala Harris started her life’s work young. She laughs from her gut, the way you would with family, as she remembers being wheeled through an Oakland, California, civil rights march in a stroller with no straps with her parents and her uncle,” writer Ashley C. Ford’s profile began.
“At some point, she fell from the stroller (few safety regulations existed for children’s equipment back then), and the adults, caught up in the rapture of protest, just kept on marching. By the time they noticed little Kamala was gone and doubled back, she was understandably upset. ‘My mother tells the story about how I’m fussing,’ Harris says, ‘and she’s like, “Baby, what do you want? What do you need?” And I just looked at her and I said, “Fweedom.”
“This past August, that same precocious child, now a member of the U.S. Senate, stood on a stage in a nearly empty auditorium flanked by American flags and accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president, making history as the first Black and Indian American woman to do so.”
You’ve read this article before even if you haven’t — stories about how Harris is a gritty go-getter for fweedom, swimming against the intersecting tides of being black, Indian and female.
For example, take this interaction between Ford and Harris, dear reader, and try not to laugh:
“With political corruption and police brutality top of mind today, it can be hard to believe there’s a powerful defender ready to battle for all of this country’s people at once. None of us can tell the future, so we look for clues, and try to pose the right questions,” Ford wrote. “I ask what justice means to a prosecutor who wants to defend our civil rights. The senator says, smiling, ‘It’s about freedom, it’s about equality, it’s about dignity. When you achieve equality, and freedom, and fairness, it’s not because I grant it to you. It’s because you fought for it because it is your right. This is not about benevolence or charity; it is about every human being’s God-given right. What do we collectively do to fight for that? That’s what justice represents to me — it’s about empowerment of the people.’”
At this point, one assumes, Ford stood up and began slow-clapping.
Anyhow, these kind of anti-adversarial political interviews pop up in magazines of a certain bent all the time, and nobody pays too much attention to them. In this case, perhaps someone should have — particularly an editor or fact-checker at Elle Magazine, say — considering the inspiring anecdote that led off the story sounds almost exactly the same as one told by the most famous leader of the civil rights movement to arguably the most famous chronicler of the civil rights movement:
So it turns out Kamala Harris lifted her “Fweedom” story from a 1965 Playboy interview with Martin Luther King, by Alex Haley. Much thanks to @EngelsFreddie for spotting the similarityhttps://t.co/zDONW4Ueqs pic.twitter.com/yQuWZHYEMz
— Q. Anthony (ɔpɛ asem) (@andraydomise) January 4, 2021
In 1965, Alex Haley, author of “Roots” and the ghostwriter of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” sat down with Martin Luther King Jr. for an interview for Playboy. In closing, King was asked about the whether there were “ever moments when you feel awed by this burden of responsibility, or inadequate to its demands.”
Among other anecdotes about why he felt he “must accept the task of helping to make this nation and this world a better place to live in — for all men, black and white alike,” King told this one:
“I never will forget a moment in Birmingham when a white policeman accosted a little Negro girl, seven or eight years old, who was walking in a demonstration with her mother. ‘What do you want?’ the policeman asked her gruffly, and the little girl looked him straight in the eye and answered, ‘Fee-dom.’ She couldn’t even pronounce it, but she knew. It was beautiful! Many times when I have been in sorely trying situations, the memory of that little one has come into my mind, and has buoyed me.”
Is it possible such unique, inspiring, “from-the-mouth-of-babes” snapshots happened during marches in both Birmingham, Alabama, and Oakland, California? Of course. Is it profoundly unlikely? Uh, yes.
Perhaps Harris’ mom read King’s interview and passed the story along as an inspiration. Maybe Harris, born in 1964, internalized it and it commingled with her actual memories, which happens to many of us. However, one’s skepticism is aroused when the story was being told by the same person who also recently released a dubious video about her childhood memories of celebrating Kwanzaa.
“Every year, our family would – and our extended family, we would gather around, across multiple generations, and we’d tell stories,” Harris said.
“The kids would sit on the carpet and the elders would sit in chairs, and we would light the candles, and of course, afterwards have a beautiful meal. And, of course, there was always the discussion of the seven principles. And my favorite, I have to tell you, was always the one about self-determination, kujichagulia.”
The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh noted a flaw here:
Somehow I find it hard to believe that she has a deep childhood attachment to a holiday that didn’t exist when she was born https://t.co/037S09KqxP
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) December 27, 2020
The holiday wasn’t created until 1966 — two years after Harris’ birth — and wasn’t in wide cultural currency until many years later.
Again, though, this could have happened. Harris could have sat on the carpet and listened to the “elders” in their chairs discussing the seven principles of African heritage. And then young Kamala would have started fussing, most likely.
“Baby, what do you want? What do you need?” Harris’ mother might have said.
“Kujichagulia,” young Kamala would reply.
Let’s all be glad we have such a “powerful defender ready to battle for all of this country’s people at once,” one who knew it at such a precocious age. Or who stole the memory from an unnamed girl in Birmingham who inspired Martin Luther King Jr., one of the two.
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