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COMMENTARY: Racism and Sexism Help End Kamala Harris’ Presidential Campaign

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I’m mad at the triple standard [Harris] has to face when it comes to her race and gender, putting food on the table and choosing a life partner. I’m mad that so-called allies are only allies when Black women are helping them to attain their goals and perfectly willing to throw us under the bus, once they’ve gotten there. I’m mad that the same folks who are now saying we need Harris at the impeachment hearings are unwilling and unable to see a Black woman in the highest office of the land.”

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U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (Photo: Office of Senator Kamala Harris / Wikimedia Commons)

By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

Yesterday, Senator Kamala Harris announced she was suspending her 2020 presidential campaign, because of low poll numbers and financial pressures. Unsurprisingly, this announcement came on the heels of a coordinated weekend media blitz of a leaked resignation letter by Kelly Mehlenbacher, a disgruntled staffer, who had unsurprisingly left Harris’ campaign to work with former New York City Mayor and billionaire, Michael Bloomberg on his newly announced candidacy.

Harris had announced in early November there would be widespread layoffs and an intense focus on Iowa so Ray Charles could see from the grave that the campaign was in trouble.

Pundits, news publications and political junkies treated Mehlenbacher’s letter like a smoking gun, which detailed how horrible of a work environment Harris created blaming Harris’ lack of leadership, focus and clear vision on how to win for the current state of affairs. Mehlenbacher laid Harris’ issues at the feet of the leadership (Campaign chairwoman Maya Harris and Campaign manager Juan Rodriguez), without detailing what role she may have played in the demise of the campaign as Director of State Operations.

Mehlenbacher’s job was to make sure the campaign was run efficiently by planning, executing, monitoring, evaluating, improving and correcting the systems and processes over time so the campaign could grow and scale as the candidate moved closer to the actual race. Only well-funded campaigns even have this position which is why Mehlenbacher may have cut her losses and bolted to Bloomberg’s campaign because that well-paid, position was about to be over.

Aside from the curious case of Mehlenbacher, what began as a promising U.S. presidential campaign ended with a whimper and the resignation letter was just the final nail in the campaign coffin of a Black woman constantly dogged by racism and sexism.

At a dinner party, I learned of the resignation letter and a friend asked me what my thoughts were. After reading it, I said I’m never surprised by a Black woman being undermined by a disgruntled white woman at work, especially when times get tough.

Yes, the campaign had problems, debate performances were uneven and voters needed more clarity on Harris’ health care plan, which she failed to communicate clearly. No, you cannot blame the ultimate failure of the campaign on the resignation letter. However, who wrote it, how it was received and used, played a significant role in the end of the campaign.

The willingness of people to immediately take the word of a disgruntled staffer over a campaign manager and chairwoman is telling. Mehlenbacher didn’t say anything in the letter anyone who has spent time working on or covering a political campaign doesn’t already know. When you run out of money, hard decisions must be made and when you fail to deliver i.e., raise enough money or put efficient processes in place, then sometimes what you may have planned is no longer viable. What she wrote isn’t a smoking gun, but simply status quo when it comes to political campaigns. The weight given that letter by the media was astonishing and the willingness to accept that Harris couldn’t lead a political staff let alone a presidential campaign was interesting.

Three of Senator Bernie Sanders’ top strategists left his 2020 campaign, citing creative differences the week after he launched his campaign in February and nada. No coordinated media blitz about how his campaign was over then or in October when the 78-year-old suffered a heart attack.

One disgruntled white woman essentially says, “I’m mad at Kamala because my job is harder than usual, life isn’t fair and the people in charge won’t do what I tell them to do,” and game over?

It wasn’t just the letter. It was also the idea that the letter was the final straw when folks have been coming for Harris over her racial identity and career as a prosecutor from the jump.

The continued pummeling of Harris by Black folk around being mixed-race and somehow less trustworthy because of it, is laughable. The fact that people hate her because she was a prosecutor when 80 percent of all prosecutors are white men is ridiculous.

Coupled with the fact that many who don’t trust her because she was a prosecutor, are riding with the white men who actually authored, introduced and voted for the crime bill that led to mass incarceration is disgusting.

As for Harris being a prosecutor – we can’t all be defendants. Having all white judges, prosecutors, lawyers and jurors worked so well for Black folk before those in power started allowing us to hold these jobs.

To lay an entirely broken justice system at the feet of one Black woman, when Black women activists, scholars and filmmakers like Jill Nelson, Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander and Ava Duvernay have been doing the actual work of raising awareness, confronting mass incarceration and actively working to change racist laws is unconscionable.

If it sounds like I’m having a tantrum, I am.

I admit that I am sick of agents of the state like Mehlenbacher and Tulsi Gabbard, who do the bidding of white supremacy and patriarchy and benefit from it while pretending to critique it. Women can’t get free because some women won’t get free.

I am sick of Black folks failing to learn from previous mistakes. If cancel culture had been in place when then Senator Obama was running for president, he would have never made it past early critiques of his Blackness and identity.

Until we realize the damage that is done when parroting the same reckless, white supremacist ideology, language and ideas around what makes someone Black, we will create unnecessary distractions from real issues that need our attention like Harris’ platform.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’d rather see Senator Harris on the Supreme Court than in the White House — especially coming behind Mango Unchained — so I’m not mad that she didn’t get the nomination. I’m mad at how she was forced out while folks who have no business being in the race are still there. (See Independents Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg for starters.)

I’m mad at the triple standard she has to face when it comes to her race and gender, putting food on the table and choosing a life partner. I’m mad that so-called allies are only allies when Black women are helping them to attain their goals and perfectly willing to throw us under the bus, once they’ve gotten there. I’m mad that the same folks who are now saying we need Harris at the impeachment hearings are unwilling and unable to see a Black woman in the highest office of the land.

I guess I wish that folks could see Black women the way they see infirmed white politicians on borrowed time and billionaires with little to no political experience.

I know that’s asking for too much in a country that is quite comfortable using the bodies and labor of Black women to literally become a global power while telling Black women to be happy singing in the background.

I’m mad that an entire political party needs Black women’s votes to win local, state and national office, but doesn’t care about the needs of Black women. I’m mad that Black people don’t realize that when we tear down our candidates over bullshit like parentage, it doesn’t take much more than a leaked resignation letter or bad press to finish her off.

Kamala Harris did not run a perfect campaign and no, she wasn’t for everyone. If you look at some of the candidates left in the race – one who talks in Blaxploitationese, one who just discovered racism exists, one who is so clueless about toxic masculinity that he sprays whipped cream into the mouths of adoring supporters and one who is boo’ed up with Trump and White Supremacy, Inc., then there is no reason why a candidate like Harris, despite her missteps, should be out of the race this early. Yeah, some of it is her fault, but it ain’t all her fault.

The relentless assault on Senator Harris will not be forgiven or forgotten at the polls or otherwise by a whole lot of women who look like me. Black women are not here to push everyone else over the finish line while we finish last. Not today or any other day and certainly not anymore.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., entertainment and culture editor for NNPA/Black Press USA. Nsenga is also founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news blog The Burton Wire, which covers news of the African Diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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