Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Harris Pick versus White Fragility

California Senator Kamala Harris has been selected as Joe Biden's running mate.

This is, I think, the chalk pick, and one I'm quite content with. I like Harris -- she was my off-the-blocks favorite before I switched my support to Warren -- and I think she'd make a fine President in the event that Biden's health fails him. It's momentous that a Black woman is filling this role, and that shouldn't be undersold just because many predicted it in advance (as Yair Rosenberg notes, part of what makes it historic is precisely that it feels conventional). I also am excited for the prospect of the first Second Man being the first Jewish Second Man.

There is one other thing that rose to my mind that I haven't seen fully emphasized. Harris' biggest moment on the campaign trail this primary season was, of course, when she hit Joe Biden on his failure to support busing as a racial integration measure. Given that, it is I think notable that Biden picked her as his VP anyway. The standard "White Fragility" narrative* is that such a challenge, from a Black woman, to a White man, will be taken as the gravest and most unforgivable of insults -- a shattering offense from which there can be no recovery. Biden is modeling an alternative -- he did not respond to a very public, very pointed anti-racism challenge by treating the challenger as cherem. He stayed in relationship with her and elevated her as his political partner. It's not the largest thing, but it is a thing that matters.

* I know "White Fragility" is passe now among the cool kids, but for what it's worth I read it back when it was a random academic article published in an obscure journal in 2011.

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