I always liked Kamala Harris before she became a presidential contender. Now, I’m not so sure. Unless you were under a rock somewhere last week, you knew how she attacked former vice-president Joe Biden for his working with separatists during the busing years. Harris started the attack by stating, “As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race.” Some people on social media then accused her of telling the story of busing as if she was a black American.
She is black and she is American, but she is also biracial, with a Jamaican father and a mother from India. What she doesn’t do is claim her multiracial heritage. She courts the black population by calling herself black. That is, of course, her right, but is she being honest with the voting public? No.
The bigger question is “does it matter?” I contend that it does. Normally, it wouldn’t matter one bit, but she’s in an increasing area of influence and power. The multiracial community has been undercounted for decades and we could certainly use a chief in the White House who identifies as we do. Wasn’t Barack Obama supposed to do that? He also self-identified as black, which was fine with me until he called himself as well as people like him “mutts.” It made me cringe to think that millions of children were hearing themselves referred to as mutts. It still makes me mad.
I have written to Kamala Harris and her staff for clarification on how she identifies, and have yet to be acknowledged with an answer. I asked if the multiracial population was bigger, would she align herself with us. No answer. On the 2010 Census, the multiracial population was 2.9 percent and the black population over 12 percent. That’s quite a difference, but it’s changing. The multiracial population is the fastest growing group in the country. Yes, we have some catching up to do, but eventually we will catch up to and pass the black population. Then our votes will matter.
You can do your part if you’re multiracial. You can check all of the boxes on the census form that signify your race. Do not just fill in the “other” category. If you do, you won’t be counted as more than one race, which could hurt our numbers. Be honest. We fought for the right to self-identify as more than one race and we need to show that we have the numbers that count, regardless of how Kamala Harris sees us.
Susan Graham, president of Project RACE and author of Born Biracial: How One Mother Took on Race in America.