A Black Woman Was Speaking and the World Listened

By Glynda C. Carr

During the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2020 general election, California Sen. Kamala Harris proved that no matter how intelligent and highly qualified you are, when you’re up against mediocrity your opponent will always try to downplay your experience and question your background.

On Oct. 7, Harris, the democratic vice presidential nominee, and Vice President Mike Pence came face to face with the precautionary, but flimsy plexiglass partitions separating the two of them. The plexiglass was installed as a safety measure against COVID-19 after President Donald Trump tested positive for the deadly coronavirus. Although USA Today’s Susan Page, the moderator of the debate, did the best she could do to keep Pence from going over his allotted time, it didn’t help much. For most of the debate, Pence failed to answer questions, but had the audacity to bombard Harris with his own assertions about her career and constantly interrupted her during her answers to debate questions.

"Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking,” Harris interjected several times during the debate. In total, according to CBS, Harris was interrupted by Pence 10 times, and it was those 10 times that launched the very apropos #ImSpeaking to trend on Twitter. Twitter users applauded Harris for standing up for herself.

Harris did not mince her words when it came to telling the truth about the failure of the Trump administration. From the administration’s slow response to the coronavirus pandemic to its ineffectiveness in dealing with the U.S. economic crisis in the midst of the pandemic, Harris had a copious list of reasons why she and democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden could get the country back on the right track, if elected.

In typical fashion, and like most white men of mediocrity, Pence did his best to mansplain to Harris, as if she needed it, when it came to the subject of police brutality and the Black killings at the hands of law enforcement. According to Pence, the protests for racial justice were just reasons for people to become violent, and he has no reason to believe systemic racism was something Black people deal with in this country. Pence attempted to lecture Harris on law enforcement, particularly when it comes to the Black community, but Harris wasn’t having it.

"I will not sit here and be lectured by the vice president on what it means to enforce the laws of our country," Harris said. "I'm the only one on this stage who has personally prosecuted everything from child sexual assault to homicide." And she was absolutely right to hit back at Pence because Mr. Vice President, a woman with experience was speaking.

One thing Harris did not bring along with her to the debate was her poker face. At any given moment, you could clearly see what Harris was thinking because her countenance was forever changing. There were those who cheered on her facial expressions, but also the likes of political commentator Bill O’Reilly and other conservatives thought her expressions were smug and attitudinal. It’s interesting how it’s OK for Donald J. Trump to make faces during his debate, and not be referred to as smug by his conservative counterparts. But let a Black woman express herself, then it’s an issue.

Throughout the 90-minute debate, Harris continued to prove that she’s a force to be reckoned with, and every time Pence attempted to diminish her, she rose like a phoenix to challenge him in return. Of course, on the heels of the debate, you could tell she ruffled Trump’s feathers, because in typical Trump fashion, he had yet another public rage episode on Fox News.

“This monster that was on stage with Mike Pence, who destroyed her last night, by the way, this monster, she says, ‘No, no, there won’t be fracking; there won’t be this.’” Trump then complained that, “Everything she said was a lie!” But let’s be clear, Trump can call Harris everything he wants, but what he’ll never be able to call her is unqualified. That’s reserved solely for himself.

Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, a woman was speaking Wednesday night, and the world and a fly listened.

Glynda C. Carr is the president and CEO of Higher Heights for America PAC, the only national organization providing Black women with a political home exclusively dedicated to harnessing their power to expand Black women’s elected representation and voting participation, and advance progressive policies.

The Crisis magazine is a quarterly journal of politics, culture, civil rights and history that seeks to educate and challenge its readers about issues facing African-Americans and other communities of color.

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