HBCU Attendance Does Not Prove Allegiance to Black People

Imani Bashir SAVE THIS

Students of Howard University march from campus to the Lincoln Memorial to participate in the Realize the Dream Rally for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington August 24, 2013 (REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan).

Over the past few weeks, Kamala Harris’ Blackness has come into question through renewed birtherism, attacks that echo the experiences of former president Barack Obama. Born to a Tamil Indian mother and Jamaican father, some have argued that although she makes attempts to align with Black voters by highlighting a hint of Blackness, Harris’ work as a prosecutor has undermined her allegiance to Black Americans. As many of her critics point out, she has been complicit in the destruction of Black communities through the policies she supported. However, those in support of Harris have argued that her Blackness is solidified in the fact that she attended Howard University, a historically Black college (HBCU)…

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3 comments

  • allen.mcfarlane

    “The representation of someone of color is minimal compared to actually standing up to the challenges of what it means to have been and still be a Black person in America. And let’s be clear: to be Black and to be a person of color are not synonymous and consist of a multiplicity of experiences connected to race, class, and gender. These differences are important to appreciate because of the nation’s history.” Thank you for your thought provoking piece. The North Star is certainly delivering on what it promised in paying homage to Frederick Douglass, et.al. I agree with your review of questioning Harris’ record. She must challenged. What I disagree with is mentioning, conjuring up the Dolezal matter as a point to prove your position. To do so stokes of a advocation for a qualification of what it means to be a black person. You state that we are not a monolith. So true and there in lies a battle line to confront another day. Living in America with a complexion of a Kamala Harris speaks for itself in how it shapes her experiences — played out in her challenge to Biden. We cannot forget that she was bused. I don’t think anyone in her family said, “Wait, my daughter is Jamaican and Indian…” I am uncomfortable with judging her in this way because it affirms an otherness. There is nothing I can hold onto in your argument where Harris disavows her identity to position herself as this so-called 100% black person — other than her policy positions. I love how you talked about Thurgood Marshall and his heroic work in Brown v. Board. Did you know that the best lawyer litigator on the team was Constance Baker Motley. She is of proud Jamaican heritage (Brian Lanker 1989). In fact, Motley argued before the supreme court 10 times and lost only once. Your argument suggests that Motley is more black than Harris. If I am not protesting, I am not 100% black. What if I am cooking meals for meetings in the South for Dr. King and others (Janet Bell 2015). What I hope we could do is practice this notion of complexity (Arnold Rampersad 2007) in our individual identities and reckon with them in ways that don’t force us to see ourselves as just a monolith in our quest for black excellence. When Ralph Ellison was asked the question of would he like to see a Black president, he replied yes and questioned, “…would he (President) be able to separate his duties from his identity.” Thank you again for your rich article.

  • iask

    Here we go with is she black enough. Kamala Harris is black and that is enough to experience virtually all of the challenges that one encounters as a result of melanin. She was not just a prosecutor so she was the Attorney General. She locked up criminals including non-violent law-breakers and she really pressed parents to make certain their children went to school. Harsh? Yes but understanding that truancy is a gateway to prison, she tried something. It matters that she went to Howard–an institution known for producing black leadership and in true Bison form she became a Senator from California–a big diverse state. The fact that she is a woman holding her own in an arena so heavily male dominated that Trump was elected matters. I cannot imagine a bigger game changer than a Black woman challenging Donald Trump head to head. Does the criminal justice system have an adverse impact on the black community? Yes and who among the candidates is more qualified than a black woman to come up with real solutions?

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