Here’s What Kamala Harris Faces as a ‘First’

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Here’s What Kamala Harris Faces as a ‘First’

“[It’s been said] You can always recognize a pioneer by the arrows in your back, ”said former US Senator Carol Moseley Braun (D-Illinois). “There have been a lot of arrows that I didn’t expect. At the same time, it was really a life-changing thing for me.”

The first black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate was Moseley Braun from her relationship with her then fiancé to her stance on welfare reform to alleged violations of ethics She looked in a Chanel twin set.

Everything she did, she said, was seen through the prism of her race and sex. “They really are of a higher standard, a different standard,” said Moseley Braun, who served as US ambassador to New Zealand after losing her re-election in 1998. “It wasn’t an easy row to hack. Of course, I had to pray a lot just so as not to lose my mind. ”

After a particularly hard day on the floor, Moseley Braun remembers sitting at home throwing a “pity party”. Until she turned on the television. “Roots” played. She changed the channel. There was “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” with Cicely Tyson as a formerly enslaved centenarian. She switched channels again just to see “Rosewood,” a biography of the massacre of a bourgeois town in Black Florida by a white mob.

“I was standing in the middle of my bedroom, looking at the ceiling and saying, ‘You’re just playing with me,” said Moseley Braun, laughing. “I had no reason to have a pity party – there were people who literally died to make sure that I can go to the Senate. “

Harris, the daughter of immigrants, has also faced the double hits of racism and misogyny. She has dealt with allegations that she is not black enough, or too black – or not black at all. She has dealt with sexist memes about her relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, criticized her for being too strict (“monstrous”) or for being “embarrassing” and “frivolous” for enjoying the rain dances.

These are tropes about women of color, especially black women as old as the republic itself, where racial differences have been used throughout history to justify slavery and ongoing inequality, says historian Paula Giddings, author of When & Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. Black women in public are cast as either hypersexual Jezebel if they meet normal standards of beauty or an asexual mother / matriarch if they don’t. Investigative journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, another first, was often cast as Jezebel.defamatory and nasty mulatress”From the New York Times in 1894.

And when these women, these first, press for power, they sometimes meet resistance from their male compatriots. When U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-New York) became the first black American to run for president in 1972, African American women overwhelmingly supported her, while black men did not, said Beverly Guy-Sheftall, feminist scholar and director of women Research and Resource Center at Spelman College. In Harris’ case, October survey Only a third of black men thought it would be a good idea for President-elect Joe Biden to have a black woman serve as vice president.

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