Kamala Harris: A prosecutorial problem in the Black Lives Matter Era? (Feb. 6)


I was taught in elementary school, there’s no such thing as a silly question, but after I grew up, I discovered too many silly questions are taken seriously.
The Intercept, an online magazine dedicated to “adversarial journalism,” asked this question in a headline about Senator Kamala Harris: Can a prosecutor become president in the age of Black Lives Matter?
At first, I thought the question wondered if BLM would support a former prosecutor after their frustration with district attorneys who couldn’t convict White police officers that shot and killed Black males. If I was correct, then it’s a fair “adversarial” question; it’s just based off the silly assumption that BLM supporters are single issue voters motivated by a grudge.
But I was wrong.
The article began, “Kamala Harris has a prosecutorial problem. She’s running for president as a progressive, but as attorney general of California, she criminalized truancy…Overlooked the misconduct of her prosecutors…Defended California’s choice to deny reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate … And appealed a federal judge’s holding that the death penalty was unconstitutional.”
Obviously, this record contradicts Harris’ progressive posture, but that wasn’t the prosecutorial problem.
The article said, “The problem isn’t that Harris was an especially bad prosecutor. She made positive contributions as well, encouraging education and re-entry programs for ex-offenders, for instance. The problem, more precisely, is that she was ever a prosecutor at all.”
Why is being a prosecutor a problem?
According to the article, “To become a prosecutor is to align oneself with a powerful and fundamentally bias system.” This suggests that Harris became an enemy of Black people (and every other marginalized group), and simply being a former prosecutor (not her job performance) is enough to make the BLM movement reject her candidacy for president.
But this line of reasoning ignores BLM’s recent activities.
After the 2018 midterm elections Glenn Loury, an economist and host of The Glenn Show on Bloggingheads.tv, was asked by his guest John McWhorter, an academic and linguist, where is Black Lives Matter?
This was a good question because BLM had the national spotlight during the second term of the Obama presidency, gained more notoriety by crashing the Democratic presidential primary, and some thought BLM would lead the resistance against Donald Trump.
But BLM disappeared overnight.
Loury explained, “Look at these progressive DA’s that got elected in cities around the country. People running for head prosecutors were saying we’re going to keep the cops off the backs of young Black people and work against mass incarceration and they have gotten elected. They’re not all Black people. Philadelphia has elected one, Dallas has elected one, LA has elected one, Boston has elected one—an African American woman, I’m told Black Lives Matter has been instrumental on the ground in pushing these candidates.”
I can also go back to August 2018 when Wesley Bell, a Black man, defeated a White prosecutor that was first elected in 1990. Bell’s 57 percent to 43 percent victory in the Democratic primary was told underneath this headline: Ouster of St. Louis prosecutor is latest election win for Black Lives Matter Movement.
Now, BLM may have a lot of issues with Sen. Kamala Harris, but the fact that she was a former prosecutor won’t be one of them, making it silly to ask, can a prosecutor become president in the age of Black Lives Matter?
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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