When Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris as his vice president pick for the 2020 campaign, many people of color saw this as a band-aid fix for a bullet hole of a systemic problem.
I am not a woman of color, but my family roots are Mexican and Colombian. My first language was not English and my parents were immigrants.
To me, Biden choosing a Black woman who climbed the ranks of the justice system as a “tough-on-crime” prosecutor in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement that called for the defunding of the police force, seemed performative and problematic.
As a woman of color, how does she not keep in mind the prison-industrial complex?
The prison-industrial system works against the progress of Black people and is seen as a form of modern slavery. Finding small ways to criminalize Black people so they end up recycled through the justice system.
Harris gained traction in the Senate after raising through the prosecutors ranks.
She has an eight-year prosecution record, during which time she spearheaded a program to detain and imprison single mothers for truancy records in California. Single mothers, even with doctors notes that excused the children’s absences, ended up in prison for a minor infraction.
Cheree Peoples was arrested in April of 2013 and a GoFundMe campaign called “The Journey of Ms. Cheree Peoples” was started to fight for Peoples’ freedom.
Peoples “had complied with all the rules and regulations in the Orange County public schools system, and had provided all the documentation to support the cause for her child’s absences who spent many days in the hospital and could not regularly attend school. But that didn’t matter to Kamala Harris and her prosecutors’ office. Ms. Peoples was to be made the example so that Harris could prove she was tough on truancy,” reads the GoFundMe post.
Harris considered herself “Top Cop” of California and in a time where Black people are calling for the defunding of the police force in 2020, it is contradictory to support a cop.
As San Francisco District Attorney, she prosecuted more mothers for truancy. In 2011, she adopted harsher policies that punished truancy with fines up to $2,500 and a year in jail.
Once Black people enter the justice system, the odds are against them and the fines pile up, along with infractions, other charges and a long bureaucratic waitlist for any representation or assistance. This is exactly what the protestors were against during the BLM protests.
Harris is a “tough-on-crime” politician who does not spare the Black community from landing in the pits of our justice system that needs heavy reform and many more years of progress.
I am happy to witness the “crack in the dam” of the patriarchy by having added a woman’s name to the long list of male leaders.
Still, her actions to date have proven no regard for the systematic or social issues that cause children to be missing school in the first place. Harris has proven that she does not keep these parents’ interests in mind, who worry about their child surviving the night. This is about life and death, prison or freedom, not attendance.
In Peoples’ case, she was a single mother with very little resources in dealing with her terminally ill child. School truancy was the last thing on her mind when she just needed her daughter to survive the night. If Harris wanted to help the Black community, she would have established programs or found resources to get those children to school, not incarcerate their parents.
As DA, she is also known for arresting and prosecuting over 8,000 people for marijuana-related charges and, years later in an interview, admitted to smoking weed in college.
Now the marijuana industry is booming with record-sales, as evidence has emerged throughout the years showing the healing benefits of marijuana use.
Harris had no problem putting people away for an issue that stopped being considered a crime, after substantial evidence deemed marijuana a medical necessity.
I get it, because these were our options in 2020:
Trump or Biden.
Harris or Pence.
Trump and Pence did nothing for the progress of the Black community and spearheaded hate campaigns to entice violence against all people of color and other minorities. We can only hope for something better from the Biden administration, despite its troubling past.