By Washington Osiro,
The recent inauguration of Kamala D. Harris as America’s 49th Vice President was the proverbial trifecta or three-for-one – and all in a good and positive way:
She was the country’s first female VP; Ms.Harris was also the first black AND Asian vice president in these United States. Along the way, one can add the mantles of First Lady Bison, First Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sororite, First Stepmom, First Chuckie-wearing Veep, and for good measure, Kamala was the first Veep whose maiden speech was preceded by the Queen of Hip Hop, MJB, bumping through the hi-fi speakers!
In short, the ascension of California’s former Junior Senator to the second-highest office in the land notched up many firsts and garnered plaudits across the world including Kenya. Her ancestral village of Thulasendrapuram in India’s southern province of Tamil Nadu also jumped into the mix celebrating their “daughter’s” good fortunes.
After all, wasn’t this the “ambitious” woman who supposedly “slept her way to the top” and benefited from “cronyism” – at least if you believe her detractors and the wing of America’s political spectrum favored by some in Kenyan (and Nigeria)?
And wasn’t Devi cut in the physical mold of Kenya’s maligned “yellow-yellows?” These are the light-skinned women who supposedly use their bi-racial beauty to beguile hapless and smitten men of means. These men respectively fund the lavish lifestyle or aid the climb atop their chosen career path of their high-yellow paramours.
As pointed out in a recent Facebook post by my “Philosophical and Ideological Foil” and the Founder of African Warrior Magazine, none other than former President Barack Obama was taken to task for referring to then-State Attorney General Harris as “the best-looking attorney general in the country.” Unfortunately, Obama’s main point was lost in the faux outrage over his allegedly sexist characterization of the head of America’s largest law enforcement agency outside the Federal Government’s Department of Justice (DOJ). POTUS #44 pre-ambled the incriminating line by complimenting California’s State AG as “brilliant, dedicated and tough…..exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake…..”
Crowning Kamala’s rise to the sitting a heartbeat away from the presidency has been her ability to navigate the stereotypes many have of African American women, i.e., of sistas. The Vice President, former FLOTUS Michelle Obama, and black women writ large are seen as “sassy,” “angry,” and “lazy,” among other less-than-flattering stereotypes the world (including Africans) has of them. This negative perception of black women underpinned Malcolm X’s lament back in the early 60s: That the “most disrespected person in America is the black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
The reality is that conveniently overlooked in the allegations that Ms. Harris indeed had a relationship with the former Speaker of California’s State Assembly and former Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown were facts that would have made Ms. Harris a rock star had she been a man. Consider that at the time of her relationship with Brown, Harris was an uber-attractive and unattached graduate of the University of California’s prestigious Hastings College of Law working as a deputy District Attorney (DA) in Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. Brown was “separated from his wife (Blanche Brown) for more than a decade.” And before law school, Harris had graced the hallways of Howard University, the crown jewel of America’s historically black colleges & universities (HBCU) network. Yet somehow, conservatives and their acolytes overlooked this aspect of her pedigree, gave the bald lothario Brown a pass, and trained their sights on the photogenic part-Jamaican/part-Tamil Harris. Further underscoring how slimy Willie Brown remained, twenty years after the relationship, the octogenarian could not resist lending his voice to those seeking their 15 Minutes of fame thanks to past links to Ms. Harris. Speaking to FOX News in early 2019, Brown broke a code most gentlemen abide by, he kissed and told!
I will not even deign to get into the silliness that Ms. Harris is “ambitious” because that characterization would not be hoisted onto a man, especially a white man.
And as much as I abhor whataboutism as a response, it is unsurprising that those Kenyans, along with their conservative/Evangelical American colleagues now complaining that Ms. Harris benefited from cronyism, did not speak up about the very ill during the last administration, cronyism that included the president’s daughter and son-in-law occupying senior positions in the White House.
It is equally predictable that those now complaining about the benefits that befell Harris courtesy of her relationship with Willie Brown occupy the same Venn Diagram as those who knot themselves into pretzels rationalizing in favor of Kenyans who benefit/ted from the flip side of the coin cronyism, i.e., nepotism, tribalism, and the patriarchal structure that was the hallmark of the Trump Administration.
And just as many Kenyans debated whether America would elect her first black president before Kenya elected her first Luo president, I wonder whether those Kenyans now falling over themselves lauding Ms. Harris’ star would feel the same way were she a beautiful light-skinned politico type whose past included a relationship with an influential and connected deal broker.