Kamala Harris pick can forge historic unity in fight for justice in America
Harris, one of many Black women leaders involved in a broad range of fights for economic justice. | John Locher/AP

The selection of Kamala Harris as the first Black female candidate of a major party for the vice presidency of the United States deserves the support of every single person in this country who cherishes democracy, economic justice, and equality.

Kamala Harris has said that in these tough times, “People say it is important that we band together and search for common ground. I say, ‘We are already standing on common ground.’”

From remarks like that to the brave outspoken role she played in the impeachment battle, Kamala Harris, like Black women across the board, have been leaders in the fight for unity of all people interested in growing and expanding democracy and justice.

In every movement for democracy and social justice, Black women have battled hard for this country, putting their voices, their strength, their votes, and literally everything else they have into the struggle.

Thus far in our history, however, they have been grossly under-represented in the halls of power, in the halls of government. And it is even more true that, despite the role they have played in lifting up this nation for centuries, they have never been represented in the very highest levels of government.

That changes now with the selection of Kamala Harris as the vice presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. The significance of that is far greater than the particulars of what Joe Biden thought were the pros or cons of selecting one person or the other to complete his ticket. Surely he knows too the historic significance of selecting Harris to fill a role that finally gives to Black women the kind of recognition they have long been denied as leaders of our country.

The announcement of her candidacy amounts to an historic smashing of an awful barrier in U.S. history, a barrier that has maintained that huge gap between the important contribution of Black women to our society and the recognition and respect they get for that contribution.

Derrick Johnson put it eloquently when he said in an official statement for the NAACP yesterday: “This announcement is even more powerful as it comes at a time when Black Americans face dualing threats—a global health crisis and ingrained racism. This moment is long overdue.”

He continued: “For far too long, we have undervalued Black women’s political power and their role in shaping our culture, communities, and country. The selection of Sen. Harris as a vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket is the culmination of the tireless work of Shirley Chisholm, Charlene Mitchell, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Barbara Jordan, Ida B. Wells, and Myrlie Evers in their fight for representation and equality. Their sacrifices, told and untold, made it possible for Sen. Harris to make political history today. Regardless of party affiliation, every American should be proud that this milestone was finally reached.”

And Johnson had a special message for the media in this regard:  “We must not allow coverage of Sen. Harris’ historic candidacy to decline into ugly racist and sexist stereotypes and attacks.

“We call upon the media, members of both political parties, and the people of this nation to honor this historic moment and treat Sen. Harris’s candidacy with the respect and esteem it deserves throughout this election season.’’

It is in the vital interest of everyone in this country to understand why the fight for equality, justice, and democracy cannot be waged without the continuing role of Black women who have always led this fight. The struggle to rid the nation of a fascistic leadership, represented by Trump and his backers, cannot be won except with the leadership that is being provided by Black women.

To understand this, we have only to listen to the words of Harris herself when she discussed marching in Washington in June in a massive Black Lives Matter protest against the killing of George Floyd.

In an article she wrote for Cosmopolitan magazine, she said that Black lives have long been regarded as less than human in this country. She wrote how when Black women give birth and hold the fragile bodies of their newborns in their hands, they worry that at some point in the future the value of that life will be disregarded and that life will then be snuffed out.

Black women who know this reality are the people best equipped to lead the struggle for a future of democracy and justice for all. They understand the stakes in achieving that justice not just for themselves and their children but for everyone else. Let the selection of Kamala Harris to be on the top of the national ticket for one of the two highest offices in the land be the beginning of a process where all Americans come to understand this.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.