Joe Biden, Kamala Harris. File
Victoria Gagliardo-Silver, The Independent
White liberals are in a panic over the 2020 election. With Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent death, white women in particular are panicking about their reproductive freedoms, shouting about how America is turning into Margaret Atwood’s Gilead. These same women believe that a Biden-Harris presidency will save us all from a dark path where women and wombs are considered objects.
My white friends ask me why I’m not panicked myself, and simply, it’s because Black women have always been under threat and will continue to be under Biden and Harris. It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House when you’re in the dog house.
I do not owe Biden my vote as a Black woman. It’s not about his stupid comments made in jest about how if I don’t vote for him that I’m not Black; it’s about his legislative record which has maligned people of colour for decades, socially, legally, and educationally. Harris, while being Black herself, isn’t much better. Their legislative records both show that they endorse systemic and institutional racism, and they won’t shake the boat and change that. Biden and Harris appeal to white liberals because that’s who they work for.
We can look towards Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill, which effectively constructed the school-to-prison pipeline for Black men, as the most obvious example of this — but his anti-Black legislative record actually began in the Reagan administration, when he refused to endorse desegregation via bussing, and pushed for more police and more prisons despite Reagan wanting to decrease federal spending. As a senator, Biden pushed Carter to ramp up the war on drugs, and his influence led to Black and Latino men being incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts. Today, we see 80 per cent of people in federal prison are people of colour, and 60 per cent in state facilities. In tandem with racially influenced drug sentencing minimums — like crack cocaine versus powder cocaine — the war on drugs was truly a war on people of colour.
When we call for police to be defunded, for drug use to be decriminalised, we cannot at the same time lend our vote to Joe Biden. Militarised police, mass incarceration, and the criminalisation of addiction are Biden’s legislative impact. As we take to the streets over Black lives being unjustly ended by cops, can we trust the man who said George H W Bush’s anti-drug initiative “doesn’t include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, not enough prosecutors to convict them, not enough judges to sentence them, and not enough prison cells to put them away for a long time”? Even now, Biden won’t commit to defunding the police, despite liberal calls for reform.
Kamala Harris isn’t reliable on Black issues, either, with a similar record of policies that disenfranchised the Black community as the California Attorney General and as a senator. To quote Cornel West, we must “understand the Black freedom struggle not as an affair of skin pigmentation and racial phenotype but rather as a matter of ethical principles and wise politics.” From that perspective, Kamala is selling out the community for political power. Despite now calling for cannabis legalisation, she opposed it during her tenure as AG, incarcerating over 1,500 black men on marijuana charges and then joking about smoking in college on The Breakfast Club.
Beyond that, Senator Harris was a co-sponsor of FOSTA-SESTA, a bill designed to curb sex trafficking which left full-service sex workers without online communities that kept them safer. She also worked to take down backpage.com, which she argued was a hub for sex trafficking, despite the fact that the majority of its users were independent full-service sex workers. With a major online advertising platform down, some of these sex workers were pushed back into street work. In 2019, Harris claimed that she’d support partial decriminalisation akin to the Nordic Model, which criminalises clients, not providers. It’s an improvement from her past stances, but many sex workers oppose the Nordic Model all the same. With her inconsistency across issues that primarily affect people of colour and sex workers, how can marginalised people expect to be supported by Harris rather than criminalised?
I hold a certain privilege as a New York voter. I know my state will go to Biden — there’s no chance Trump would win here, so I can truly “vote my conscience”. As a Black woman and a sexual assault survivor, I don’t want to vote for someone facing allegations of sexual misconduct and allegations of racism, which frankly, applies to both candidates. It’s not a choice between the lesser evils for me. It’s about understanding that the system is designed to oppress people like me, and recognising that neither party during this election cycle is going to change that.
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