The Facts on Kamala Harris

Policies behind Joe Biden's VP pick raise questions about the future of America

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Haley Wernz, Reporter

On August 11, Joe Biden announced that his running mate in the 2020 election will be California Senator Kamala Harris – it was met with mixed reactions across the internet. 

While many celebrities and fellow politicians celebrated the decision, people voiced their concerns about Biden’s decision. “You can’t scream ‘ACAB’ then go support Kamala Harris,” says twitter user @starkjewels.Opinion | What the Kamala Harris Pick Tells Us About Joe Biden - The New York Times

 “ACAB” is an abbreviation of the phrase “All Cops Are Bastards,” referring to the corruption in the United States prison system, but is often used in other areas of the world with rampant police brutality issues. This sentiment now being directed towards Senator Harris is based around the high incarceration rates in California while being under Harris’ senate and as prosecutor, district attorney, and state attorney. “Y’all will post ‘ACAB’ and ‘BLM’ and ‘abolish the police’ but then celebrate Kamala Harris LMAO STOP,” reads a sentiment from twitter user @cactusbruja.

 Are the ideas of “I support police defunding and/or reform” and “I support Kamala Harris” capable of coexisting with each other? (No!)  Is it hypocritical to support both? (Yes!) Should you still vote for Biden? (YES!)

KAMALA’S PAST

Overcrowding in Prisons

Harris refers to herself as a “top cop,” and in her 2009 book Smart on Crime made the statement “If we take a show of hands of those who would like to see more police officers on the street, mine would shoot up,” adding that “virtually all law-abiding citizens feel safer when they see officers walking a beat.”California officials: We'll fix prison crowding, won't free 33,000 - CNN.com

 However, Harris also calls herself a progressive politician despite having unconstitutionally crowded prisons in California, according to a report by the Supreme Court in 2010. The prisons in California are designed to hold “a population just under 80,000, but at the time of the decision under review the population was almost double that,” and they wanted the population to be reduced by over 30,000 prisoners– otherwise the population went against the Eight Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. At one point, prisoners had to sleep in makeshift bunk-beds kept in the prison gymnasium. 

The prison staff was unable to help the inmates with medical and mental health issues and caused “needless suffering and death,” according to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Roughly every six or seven days an inmate in the California prisons dies because of the lack of care, and the suicide rate is 80% higher, according to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Disproportionate Black Prison Population

When Harris was San Francisco’s District Attorney, the incarceration rate jumped from 52% to 67%, according to Medium. While Black men made up only 8% of the city’s population, they made up roughly 40% of the prison population under Harris in 2002-2005. Now, there’s nothing wrong with keeping criminals off the street… but in this time, her office handed out over 19,000 marijuana convictions. However, in 2018 Harris openly supported the idea of legalizing marijuana and tweeted, “We can’t keep repeating the same mistakes of the past. Too many lives have been ruined by these regressive policies.”

As of 2017, Black men made up 28.5% of the population in California’s male prisons, according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). However, only 5.6% of the men living in California are Black. The imprisonment rate for Black men is 4,236 per 100,000 people—ten times the imprisonment rate for white men, which is 422 per 100,000.

Controversially, Harris also supports the three-strike law. This is when if you have three felony offenses, you will be given a life sentence without parole if one of the felonies is considered violent. Let’s say you commit robbery once, then a few years later commit another robbery. Ten years later, you break into a house to burglarize it. Normally in California, a burglary is a 6 year sentence. However, with the three-strike system, you would face 25 years to life.

This law is controversial because of how it disproportionately convicts Black people, more specifically Black men. With the “war on drugs” in more impoverished areas of the United States, black people are charged more often than white people on drug-related crimes, according to the ACLU. However, it is estimated that Black people and white people have the same rates of drug use which isn’t reflected in drug conviction rates. The American justice system is deeply flawed and has a racial bias so it’s a given that, when Black people are charged more often than white people for crime, they will suffer under this law.

Kamala Harris, For Which People? | East Bay Express

Prison Labor

Despite the fact that Harris uses language to sound like a progressive champion for civil rights, she relies on prison labor, especially to fight the wildfires that are very common (and very deadly) in California. These prisoners are paid $1 an hour for this work, which is essentially slavery.

Under the 13th Amendment Section 1, it is said that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This basically means that convicted people have no constitutional rights and can be made to work as punishment for their crimes.

This would be fine and dandy if prisons were full of, you know, people who committed terrible crimes– you shouldn’t feel sympathy for the man who committed brutal rape who’s out there stopping wildfires. But as we know, in Harris’ jurisdiction there are disproportionate numbers of Black inmates over petty crimes, so that’s not the case.

Kamala Harris Praises 'Incredible' Black Lives Matter, Feeling Isn't Mutual

KAMALA HARRI$ … SUPPORTS INMATE SLAVE LABOR,” reads a sign from a protest outside of her home in January 2019 after she announced her candidacy (she dropped out later in December).

Why would a Black woman enslave (mostly Black) inmates? Harris’ lawyers even pushed back on a federal order for early parole for eligible inmates because of the argument that it would take away inmates for their prison labor system. If the prisons are overcrowded why would it matter? When asked about this decision, Harris claimed to be “shocked,” and compared the idea of prison labor to “chain gangs” in an interview with Buzzfeed News. However, she declined to answer on whether or not the state reevaluated the decision that was made.

Death Penalty

First things first: Kamala Harris says she doesn’t support the death penalty, and in her 2004 run as Attorney General, she was willing to refuse to seek it in cases. However, she says she will enforce capital punishment as needed, according to Vox.  In 2014, she appealed a judge ruling against sentencing Ernest Dewayne Jones (tried for the murder and rape of his girlfriend’s mother in 1992). The judge (who ruled for life in prison for Jones) claimed that while over 900 people in California have been sentenced to death since 1978 but only 13 were executed.

That’s a big deal, especially when Black people, who make up 13% of the American population, are roughly 42% of the death row population since 1976, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The United States has one of the highest execution rates, with 2,738 death row inmates in 2018 according to Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Legally, there are five different execution methods– lethal injection, electric chair, hanging, gas chamber, and firing squad, with lethal injection being the most common.

Currently, 55% of the people waiting on death row are Black. From October 2002 to now, roughly 12 people have been executed in cases where the defendant was white and the murder victim was Black, according to the ACLU. Approximately 178 Black defendants were executed for murders with white victims.

As of March 2019, there were 737 people on California’s death row (the largest in the country), which led to California Governor Gavin Newsom to put a moratorium on death row, stating “I will not oversee the execution of any person while Governor.” This means there were so many people on death row that he felt that the practice had to be halted.

Police Brutality

Harris has openly stated her support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, but the sentiment is not reciprocated by the curators of BLM, as seen from protest signs made after her 2019 presidency announcement in January. One of the reasons she’s been scrutinized by BLM is the fact that she doesn’t believe in the regulation of police body cams. With the body cams, there would then be live, unedited footage of police brutality cases to prosecute the cops who are committing the crimes, and thus (possibly) make it harder for police brutality to happen. “We should invest in the ability of law enforcement leaders in specific regions and with their departments to use … discretion to figure out what technology they are going to adopt based on needs that they have and resources that they have,” Harris said in a 2015 press conference in Sacramento.

California has a high police shooting rate, according to New York Times. In 2012, a year after Harris took office as the district attorney, the California police were involved in the murder of Manuel Diaz, an unarmed 25-year-old who was shot in the back. When Harris was called and urged to conduct an investigation, Harris called back two days later to say she wouldn’t intervene. Later that year, Mario Romero, an unarmed 23-year-old, was shot outside of his home by police. Harris still made no effort to intervene.

Harris also refused to endorse bill AB-86, which would have special prosecutors to investigate police brutality cases (which was opposed by police unions).

In San Francisco alone, there were 18 police shooting deaths during 2011 under Harris.

AMERICA’S FUTURE?

In a survey of 94 NAHS students, it was determined that Joe Biden would have about 68% of the vote, with most people stating things such as “Trump is an awful person” or “Donald Trump is a racist” in their explanations. Obviously this is not on the same scale as the United States election, but it does give some insight on what our student body believes, which could be good for the future of America. While Biden/Harris has an iffy background as a whole, at least neither of them are Donald Trump.

“Progressive” Politician?

Kamala Harris is not a progressive politician. She is a performative activist.

Now, as I said before… none of this is an endorsement for Donald Trump– I think you should (begrudgingly) vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. While they might not be the best option, you and I both know that they would have better (not the best) interest in mind when it comes to women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrants rights, and POC rights. Donald Trump does not, and he has never claimed to. Heck, he’s openly said he has the worst interest in mind for literally anyone who isn’t a straight, white Christian.

On the other hand, it would be huge for Kamala Harris, an Indian-Jamaican woman, to become vice president. Besides Obama, the presidency has been only white men, so now we would have a chance for a Black woman to be vice president– especially with all of the recent talk on racial equality.

But that doesn’t change the fact that to support Kamala Harris is to support the justice system as it is (corrupt, disproportionate, overpowered, and over-funded) because she is a direct contributor to the issues at hand. Moreover, Joe Biden doesn’t support the defunding of the police but supports police reform. This would mean more education rather than training. As if that would stop the systemic racial bias in the system that has been there from the start.We need more funding in public education and social work and not in the police. Maybe if people had the resources easily and readily accessible to beat addiction, they wouldn’t be committing drug related crimes? Just a thought. Anyway, vote for Joe Biden.