During her “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night, Senator Kamala Harris literally laughed in Norah O’Donnell’s face — and every Black woman I know laughed right along with her.
With a straight face, O’Donnell, the “CBS Evening News” anchor, asked Harris whether she would bring a “socialist or progressive perspective” to the White House if Joe Biden is elected president. For months, that’s been a President Trump talking point, and the senator wasn’t having it.
“No, no,” Harris said, laughing off a characterization that has been thrown at her since Biden, the Democratic nominee, chose her as his running mate. “It is the perspective of a woman who grew up a Black child in America, who was also a prosecutor, who also has a mother who arrived here at the age of 19 from India. Who also, you know, likes hip-hop. Like, what do you wanna know?”
Then she added: “I am not going to be confined to Donald Trump’s definition of who I, or anyone else, is. I think America has learned that would be a mistake.”
History’s light is poised to shine on Harris. If Biden is elected president next month, Harris will become this nation’s first female vice president-elect — and the most powerful Black woman in American political history.
And Trump can’t stand it.
As witnessed again in Trump’s interview Sunday with Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes,” strong women give misogynists like Trump fits. Unable to best them, he falls back on infantile taunts that only magnify his inadequacies. Yet he always reserves an extra potent enmity for Black women, perhaps because they voted against him in far greater numbers than any other demographic in 2016, and are expected to do so again.
Also, Trump is a racist, a fact Harris again reiterated on “60 Minutes.”
For months now, Trump has called Harris “a monster” and “nasty.” (The only thing he does more than play golf is project.) He has mocked the pronunciation of her name. After her “60 Minutes” interview, which she didn’t cut short in a whiny huff as he did, Trump said of Harris’s laughter, “Is there something wrong with her?”
What can Trump know of Black women’s joy, and how it is our shield against the harms this nation inflicts? When Harris told O’Donnell, “This is not the first time in my life I’ve been called names,” she spoke for so many Black women targeted by insecure men determined to keep them in their place.
Know this: A Black woman’s place is anywhere she wants to go.
Trump can’t understand Harris’s ease and style, so he has to demonize her laughter — this from a man who usually snarls, and doesn’t so much smile as bare his teeth. At a recent rally, he said, “We’re not going to have a socialist president, especially a female socialist president. We’re not going to have it. We’re not going to put up with it.”
He’s trying to scare white people again. What he means is, he does not want a Black woman a heartbeat away from the presidency.
From Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, to Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, to cofounders of the Black Lives Matter movement Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors, Black women are the true architects building a real democracy, instead of accepting one never designed to include them. Those efforts have never been equaled in elected political power. In 1968, Shirley Chisholm of New York became the first Black woman in Congress. It would be 24 years before Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois would be the first Black woman elected to the Senate; there wouldn’t be another one until 2016, when Harris, then California’s attorney general, won her Senate seat.
In this nation’s history, only 45 Black women, including Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, have ever been elected to Congress. In 2018, Stacey Abrams would have been the first Black woman governor, if Brian Kemp, now Georgia’s governor, hadn’t stolen it from her.
So history is on the ballot too. No wonder Harris’s nomination has shaken Trump. When she laughed at O’Donnell, she was also laughing at Trump, piercing his fragile bravado and revealing the weak man wrecking the country.
Until the last vote is counted, Trump will continue to call Harris names, and she will continue to call out Trump’s lethal failures. And if Biden wins, come January we will at last call a woman, a Black woman, “Madame Vice President.”