Although some of these critiques are fringe, sexist, and quite extreme, they can easily become mainstream.

-Aaron Fountain

by Aaron Fountain

All political candidates experience scrutiny of their public and personal lives once they announced their candidacy for the office of President of the United States. California Senator and now-presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, is no exception.

Law professors, journalists, and various members on the political Left have raised crucial questions about Harris’ policy positions and controversial decisions she pursued as a prosecutor. In all, her record shows that she has opposed or remained silent on criminal justice reforms and repealing the death penalty, while advocating for the criminalization of habitual truancy, which would disproportionately affect low-income people of color.

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Questions about Harris’ legitimacy have been raised among Black male voters, but many of these questions deviate from mainstream discussions about her record. These men, some with substantial followings, have instead questioned her decision to marry a white man, asked why she couldn’t have found a Black man while attending Howard University, and wondered whether white Americans are willing to embrace an interracial couple.

These questions hail from the Black Manosphere and its various non-affiliated sympathizers. This group has usually been apolitical when it comes to politicians, but members now have a gripe with Harris and are being very vocal about it. They have argued that Black male voters are crucial in presidential elections. Indeed, Black male voters have voted Republican at a higher rate than Black women. Even in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, Black men voted for Brian Kemp at a higher rate than Black women, who overwhelmingly voted for Stacey Abrams. Therefore, these commentators believe that without strong support from Black male voters, the Democrats will have difficulty winning future elections.

The attacks against Harris delve into her personal life. Some Youtubers view Harris’ marriage to a white man as inherently problematic. Oshay Duke Jackson of the Brother Pill podcast argued that the Democratic Party has been losing the Black male vote. “If you really want to piss Black men off,” he began, “let’s take a woman like Kamala Harris who went to a Black college…Brothers there wasn’t good enough for you to marry?” Essentially, he believes “a Black man is going to have a lot of issues of a Black woman…being married to a white man.” That alone, he continued, will make Black men go for Trump or stay home. In another segment, he noted that Harris’ sister, Maya Harris, is married to a Black man, Tony West, former United States Associate Attorney General under the Obama administration. Thus, according to the logic, Kamala could have easily found a well-to-do Black man as well.

Others think the Democratic Party is overwhelming relying on Black women while forgetting about Black men. “They are pushing with a knife, Black men out of the Democratic Party,” claimed Edward Anderson, another Youtuber. “If I see one more damn newspaper in my local area that talks about how Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, I see that as ‘F Black men.’ I’m done.” Fearful of perceiving declining social status, to Anderson, Harris’ campaign reinforces the problem. “Kamala being with a white dude, is more of a f you, f you, f you,” he noted.

Jackson believes that white people will also have a problem with Harris’s husband. He argued that Americans are not ready to see an interracial couple in the White House. He claimed people appreciated Obama for sticking to his own kind, thus for Harris, white voters will be skeptical of her marriage. There is some statistical data behind this claim. A 2018 poll by YouGov reported that nearly 20 percent of Americans view interracial marriage as immoral. Indeed, for some voters Harris’s marriage will be a problem. But whether it would be enough to derail her campaign is highly questionable since voters rarely, if ever, vote for a political candidate based on their spouse.

Some of the critiques the Black Manosphere have made about Harris have mainstream appeal. For one, can a former prosecutor with a tough on crime position truly claim they want to change the criminal justice system? Second, is Harris playing up her Black identity while downplaying her Asian background to appeal to Black voters, particularly Black women who are the most reliable demographic in Democratic primaries? Lastly, will Black voters support her with the same enthusiasm as they did for Barack Obama? These are actually valid questions.

But some of the critiques made are simply rooted in misogynoir and questions about racial legitimacy. “There is no way I will support a coon-ass Black woman who plays the role in destroying the lives of Black men,” uttered Youtuber, Woke Progressive, who views Harris as a politician who does not have the best intention addressing Black issues. “If she cared about the Black community she would be with a Black man,” he continued. “I’m not voting for this half-breed heifer.” The correlation between pro-Black policy and Black love is quite illogical since a candidate’s love life cannot determine public policy positions.

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Although some of these critiques are fringe, sexist, and quite extreme, they can easily become mainstream if Harris manages to clinch the nomination. Obama’s birth certificate controversy began as a conspiracy theory that gradually slipped into the mainstream and led him to address the controversy openly. Voters also questioned Obama’s racial identity, whether or not he was “too Black” for white voters and “not Black enough” for Black voters.

There’s little reason to think Harris won’t be posed with personal questions that will be laced with misogynoir if see becomes the nominee. We have to responsible enough to be honest about which criticisms are legitimate and necessary, and which are just misogynoir.

Aaron G. Fountain Jr. is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  His writings have appeared in Al Jazeera America, Latino Rebels, The Hill, Black Perspectives, and Occupy.