Kamala Harris is Black.
Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez
Seems like deja-vu all over again. It was only a few years ago when I wrote “Repeat after me: President. Obama. Is. Black.”
Now that it looks like Kamala Harris will be one of the people running for POTUS, she garners more media attention, and since she is one of the people on my short list of possibles I pay close attention to stories, and tweets about her.
So imagine my surprise when I saw this:
My first response was “WTF?” and “Oh, Hell No!”
Harris is the second black woman elected to the Senate. The first was Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) who served one term from 1993 to 1999. Harris is also the first Indian-American Senator.
Her mom, Shyamala Gopalan Harris was a Tamil, from India, and her dad, Donald J. Harris, is black from Jamaica. Her mom was clear that she was raising two black daughters, Kamala and Maya, in Oakland, and Berkeley CA. Those daughters went to a black Baptist church, and to a Hindu temple
"My Indian mother knew she was raising two black daughters," said Harris, whose birth in 1964 came two weeks before Californians voted to allow racial discrimination in housing. "But that's not to the exclusion of who I am in terms of my Indian heritage."
Steeped in Indian culture, Harris and her sister, Maya, now a civil rights lawyer and senior policy advisor to Hillary Rodham Clinton, visited family in Madras on occasion. Harris remembers Aretha Franklin's gospel rendition of "Young, Gifted and Black" as a soundtrack of her youth in a black middle-class neighborhood in the flats of Berkeley. Her parents often joined civil rights protests.
"I grew up going to a black Baptist Church and a Hindu temple," Harris recalled as she sipped an iced soy latte at a Berkeley coffee house.
On weekends, the girls would visit their father in Palo Alto, where he was an economics professor at Stanford University.
"The neighbors' kids were not allowed to play with us because we were black," Harris said. "We'd say, 'Why can't we play together?' 'My parents — we can't play with you.' In Palo Alto. The home of Google."
Harris tells crowds that even liberal Berkeley waited nearly two decades before carrying out the Supreme Court's 1954 mandate to desegregate public schools. Her elementary school class in the 1970s was only the second one to integrate Berkeley schools with busing, she recalled.
Her dad made sure the girls were steeped in their Jamaican heritage too. Reflections of a Jamaican Father by Donald J. Harris
As a child growing up in Jamaica, I often heard it said, by my parents and family friends: “memba whe yu cum fram”. To this day, I continue to retain the deep social awareness and strong sense of identity which that grassroots Jamaican philosophy fed in me. As a father, I naturally sought to develop the same sensibility in my two daughters. Born and bred in America, Kamala was the first in line to have it planted. Maya came two years later and had the advantage of an older sibling as mentor.
What some folks don’t seem to get, is that you can be “bi-racial” and black at the same time. We know that race is a social construct anthropologically — however race in the U.S is a combo of ancestry and culture, and racism is a daily reality for those of us who are defined as, and phenotypically “not-white.”
Those of you who know her bio are aware that Harris graduated from one of the premiere HBCUs in the U.S. — Howard University. (for more on Howard see: We went to Howard—not Harvard)
You can listen to Harris share HBCU insider banter in the beginning of this interview she did on the black syndicated radio program, The Breakfast Club.
California Senator Kamala Harris talks politics, gun control and criminal justice reform on ‘The Breakfast Club’
The story from AlJazeera I posted isn’t the only place I’ve seen Harris’ blackness erased. There have been a few wrongheaded comments made to that effect right here on DKos.
If you see them in the future, suggest you link to this.
News round up by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
The battle at Union Hill began four years ago, when Dominion Energy fired the opening shot: Not only was Virginia's largest utility proposing that its multistate natural gas pipeline traverse this wooded countryside, but it also suggested that a sprawling gas-fired compressor station must be built nearby.
As Dominion sought the proper permits for the pipeline and the station, the historically black community of Union Hill in Buckingham County joined a growing number of environmental groups concerned about the health and climate risks — and critics who say projects like it disproportionately burden minorities and lower-income people.
But the energy company, in a push to win the hearts and minds of the county's 17,000 residents, has taken a different turn, unveiling a series of long-sought benefits to residents who live closest to the compressor station site — a move that has further divided a populace already strained by an undercurrent of suspicion.
"Dominion is an expert at the divide-and-conquer tactic," said the Rev. Paul Wilson, a leader of two historically black churches in Union Hill who was arrested in 2016 during an anti-pipeline protest outside of the Virginia Governor's Mansion in Richmond, the state capital. "There's a group of people who are even moving to get me out as pastor. Once you inject money into the conversation, it becomes a wedge."
Dominion last month proposed $5.1 million worth of improvements that would be overseen by the community, potentially to build a community center, beef up local emergency services and supply grants for entrepreneurs. The package will be given on the condition that the $7 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline project — owned by Dominion and its utility partners, and zigzagging 600 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina — is finished.
In a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott — the only black Republican in the Senate — defended his decision to oppose the nomination of Judge Thomas Farr to a federal district court seat, writing, “Simply put, if the Senate votes on a candidate that doesn’t move us” towards racial reconciliation and unity, “I will not support him or her. Our country deserves better.”
While you are right that [Farr’s] nomination should be seen through a wider lens, the solution isn’t simply to decry “racial attacks.” Instead, we should stop bringing candidates with questionable track records on race before the full Senate for a vote.
Unfortunately, there are those in this country who see racism in everything, and they are countered by those who believe racism no longer exists in any substantive way. While our nation has made significant progress over the past 50 years, there is no doubt we still have work left to do.
What this means, regardless of the obvious issues the Democratic Party has on race, is that the Republican Party must strive to do better. We can build on the momentum of opportunity zones and criminal-justice reform to show we are serious about tackling real issues facing people of color. I know conservative solutions can transform lives, but if folks don’t trust us, implementing those solutions becomes impossible.
Scott was responding to a Wall Street Journal editorial that argued, in part, “There’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of Mr. Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican. But Democrats will see Mr. Farr’s defeat as a vindication of their most underhanded and inflammatory racial tactics.”
A top White House appointee at the Department of Veterans Affairs sought to silence the agency’s chief diversity officer, who — in the aftermath of last year’s racially charged violence in Charlottesville — pushed for a forceful condemnation that was at odds with President Trump’s response, newly disclosed emails show.
The tense exchange between Georgia Coffey, a nationally recognized expert in workplace diversity and race relations, and John Ullyot, who remains VA’s chief communications official, occurred during a low point in Trump’s presidency: when he blamed “many sides” for the deadly clash in Charlottesville without singling out the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who rallied there.
One woman was killed and dozens were injured in the August 2017 protest, which began over the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park and ended when a car plowed into a crowd of anti-racism protesters.
VA’s secretary at the time, David Shulkin, made headlines that week when he appeared to break with Trump, telling reporters the violence in Charlottesville “outraged” him. Coffey, a career senior executive at VA, pressed the agency’s leaders to issue a statement making it clear that VA stood against such a “repugnant display of hate and bigotry by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan,” according to the emails.
The emails were provided to The Washington Post by the nonprofit watchdog group American Oversight, which obtained them via the Freedom of Information Act. The correspondence sheds new light on the politically delicate decisions federal agencies faced as officials sought to balance the need to address employee concerns with a desire not to upset the White House.
The reopening of Belgium’s Africa Museum, a former colonial institution holding one of the world’s largest collections of African art, has led to calls by the Democratic Republic of the Congo for many of its artefacts to be repatriated.
Joseph Kabila, who has been in power in DRC since his father’s assassination in 2001, said he was seeking to bring back art and documents so they could be held in a new Congolese national museum being funded by the South Korean government.
Belgium’s Africa Museum is located in Tervuren, on the outskirts of Brussels, near the site where a “human zoo” of 267 Congolese men, women and children was staged on the orders of King Leopold in 1897. It has been closed for five years to allow for a €75m (£67m) renovation and “decolonisation” process.
The institution, whose 11,000 sq ft of exhibition space is now double what it was, is reopening on Saturday in the presence of Belgian and Congolese dignitaries, to tell the story of Africa and its colonisation through the eyes of Africans, with a “very critical” view of the racist and cruel Belgian regime in Congo.
In an interview with the Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir, Kabila said he would be seeking restitution of works and documents next year. “It’s in progress, but to do so we are waiting for the end of the works and the opening of our own museum, in partnership with South Korea,” Kabila told the paper.
A drug that protects children in wealthy countries against painful and sometimes lethal bouts of sickle-cell disease has been proven safe for use in Africa, where the condition is far more common, scientists reported on Saturday.
More research remains to be done, experts said, but knowing that hydroxyurea — a cheap, effective and easy-to-take pill — can safely be given to African children may save millions of youngsters from agonizing pain and early deaths.
“I think this is going to be amazing,” said Dr. Ifeyinwa Osunkwo, who directs a sickle-cell disease program in Charlotte, N.C., but was not involved in the new study.
“There is currently no treatment in Africa, and a lot of children die before age 5,” said Dr. Osunkwo, who has treated children in the United States and Nigeria. “We’re going from nothing to gangbusters.”
On display now at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is a special exhibit centered on a rare Bible from the 1800s that was used by British missionaries to convert and educate slaves.
What's notable about this Bible is not just its rarity, but its content, or rather the lack of content. It excludes any portion of text that might inspire rebellion or liberation.
Anthony Schmidt, associate curator of Bible and Religion in America at the museum, says the first instance of this abridged version titled, Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands, was published in 1807.
"About 90 percent of the Old Testament is missing [and] 50 percent of the New Testament is missing," Schmidt says. "Put in another way, there are 1,189 chapters in a standard protestant Bible. This Bible contains only 232."
Schmidt says passages that could have prompted rebellion were removed, for example:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
And verses that reinforced the institution of slavery, including "the most famous pro-slavery verse that many pro-slavery people would have cited," says Schmidt, were kept.
"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ." Ephesians 6:5
It’s official: After months of watching magazine covers steadily get more colorful, with December’s round of issues, 2018 has ended up as a record-breaking year for diversity, particularly in the fashion industry.
Industry site Fashionista has been keeping track of diversity and inclusion for the past five years now, and on Monday reported that of the American editions of nine major fashion tomes in the United States alone (Allure, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Marie Claire, Vogue, and W), 62 of 128 covers—48.4 percent—featured people of color. For their purposes, as well as for ours, “people of color” include those who identify as mixed race and of Latinx or Hispanic descent.
“It’s important to note, however, that racial identity is very much a social construct and fluid depending on borders,” Fashionista aptly notes. Again, how one self-identifies is key here.
But yes, that means almost a full half of mainstream American fashion magazines in 2018 starred a nonwhite person on their covers, which Fashionista calculates is a 17 percent increase from 2017, and the highest increase they’ve seen since they began tabulating in 2014.
Of course, much of this increase can be attributed to September of 2018, which was record-breaking all on its own. 54.5 percent of September’s covers starred people of color, a 32.3 percent increase from last year. And again, Fashionista only counted American covers; we saw an increase in diversity across the globe this fall (and featured a few of those most recent covers above).
Voices and Soul
by Black Kos Poetry Editor
Margaret Atwood is often lauded for her precise fiction of the dystopian world described in the Handmaid's Tale, but I would posit she was merely describing what was already a truth lived for eons, but is now conveniently ignored. Willful women and girls have felt the pain of their willfulness all around the world for so long, one might presume it is the nature of things, that it is the law of the land, it is written and God has spoken.
Willful women and girls have been buried and stoned and lashed and stabbed and immolated and lynched and shot by a willful world of terror and subjugation intent on disappearing willful women and girls to prevent the stock from being contaminated with the disease of humanity.
But, what about the girls that never die?
a girl buried to the chest
in red earth her wrists
bound beneath the soil
with twine a crowd gathers
to father her its infinite
hands curved loosely around
a stone small enough
that no single throw is named
as cause of death no single
hand accountable to the blood
the girl undaughter unnamed
unfaced undone from the lineage
her photographs pulled already
from bookshelf from walls her father
among the hands his pebble
streaked with quartz the first to rise
to carve the air & arc toward the girl
the rootless tree faceless & erect
& perhaps the stones twisting
like fireworks the girl
their nucleus rise & rise
for a time opposite of rain
opposite of hail & perhaps the silence
a beat too long & another
another & then a rustling
of wings above the girl
a flock thick mixed cloud
of avifauna partridge & nightjar
& golden sparrow & avocet
& lapwing & every other sort
of plover & ibis & heron & gulls
though the sea is far & to the north
& the minutes pass & the girl is untouched
& each bird in its beak tongues a stone
[what if i will not die]
[what will govern me then]
[how to govern me then]
[what bounty then on my name]
[what stone what rope what man
will be my officer]
-- Safia Elhillo
From “Girls That Never Die”
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