When Joe Biden finally announced Kamala Harris as his running mate for the 2020 election, few people were surprised. Harris had been the favored choice for months, virtually since it became clear that Biden would have the Democratic nomination.
What happened next wasn't that surprising either. A tweet that I came across the day of the VP announcement put it best:
Okay so, it’s about to get way racist and sexist up in here. It’s a good time to remember to check the sources, tru… https://t.co/g2A3jewKgx— Ashley Nicole Black (@Ashley Nicole Black)1597177748.0
And, to the surprise of absolutely no one, she wasn't wrong.
Almost immediately, claims surfaced that Harris had slept her way to the top, referencing her relationship with San Francisco mayor Willie Brown from 25 years ago. If you spend long enough scrolling through the replies to any major politician's tweets, or simply open Facebook, you're likely to see a faux Biden-Harris campaign logo calling Kamala a derogatory name as someone's profile picture.
The double standard is immediately, aggressively evident: A thrice-married president known for affairs is no problem, but a female Senator must have slept her way to the top.
It didn't end there. There was simultaneously a blatantly racist theory making the rounds that since Harris' parents had been in the U.S. on student visas, she somehow wasn't a U.S. citizen — despite the fact that she was born in Oakland, California. The issue of birthright citizenship has been settled for ages and yet people argued that an American-born woman wasn't eligible for the presidency. It was a disturbing second act to the racist birtherist conspiracy theory that was leveled against Obama (a theory which was also promoted by Trump).
Now, I feel it's important to note that I have issues with Kamala Harris. As the attorney general of California, she oversaw over 1,900 convictions on marijuana-related charges, only coming out in favor of legalization in 2018. It's worth noting that very few people were sent to jail for marijuana during Harris' time in office, but the fact that she pursued more convictions than her predecessor, coupled with the fact that she only changed her stance when planning to run for president is troubling.
Come November, I'll still be voting for Biden and Harris. But it's perfectly acceptable to criticize politicians for a wide range of things, even when you're still voting for them.
But if your main complaint about Kamala Harris is her eligibility or her quarter-of-a-century-old relationships, you're racist and sexist, end of story.
There are plenty of valid criticisms about Kamala Harris, but those aren't among them. Just because this kind of vitriol has sadly come to be expected every time a Black person or a woman runs for office doesn't mean it's in the slightest bit acceptable.