Kamala Harris has a message for Black men: ‘We have to earn their vote’
EXCLUSIVE: The Democratic vice-presidential nominee touts a tax credit for new home buyers, decriminalizing marijuana, and creating a national database for police misconduct as a few items on the Biden-Harris agenda.
During an exclusive sit-down with theGrio, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris discussed the 2020 election, which is only two weeks away, and more specifically addressed a voting block political analysts are watching closely on Nov. 3: Black male voters.
For the fourth episode of theGrio‘s Facebook live series Vote For Your Life, an online panel that discusses the importance of the Black vote this upcoming election, Harris spoke with owner of theGrio, Byron Allen, and VP of Digital Content, Natasha S. Alford.
Unlike the previous weeks, Sen. Harris was a solo special guest on the panel to join Alford and Allen. Past episodes have included appearances by Stevie Wonder, Jamie Foxx, Bishop T.D. Jakes and April Ryan.
Allen, a staunch supporter of the Biden/Harris ticket, prompted the California U.S. senator to speak on reasons why she and Biden were running and what they have in store for Americans should they win. Harris highlighted the power of the Black vote, what’s at the stake with the Supreme Court, and her concern for a hunger crisis happening in the United States.
However, most of the conversation centered around a question posed by Alford about the condition of Black men in America and their increasing amount of support for President Donald Trump. The Trump campaign has increasingly targeted Black male voters, even working with entertainer Ice Cube to help revise his “Platinum Plan” to address issues concerning the Black community — a move considered controversial to some.
Alford cited polls that indicate that an increasing number of Black men are leaning toward voting for the incumbent, but also cautioned that polls aren’t necessarily 100 percent accurate. According to ABC News’ Five Thirty Eight, UCLA Nationscape’s poll shows Trump’s support from young Blacks and Hispanics is 14 points higher than they were in 2016.
Alford asked Harris, “Can you just speak to Black men directly about how they are being considered? If there are policies that affect them in the Biden/Harris Administration that they should look forward to if they were to vote for you?”
Harris emphasized to Black male voters who support Trump why she believes the president isn’t looking out for Black Americans. “You have seen a person who’s the president of the United States who refuses to speak the words “Black Lives Matter,” she said.
Trump, Republican leaders, and right-wing pundits have consistently mischaracterized the Black Lives Matter movement as violent or un-American. During an August interview on Fox & Friends, for example, Trump called BLM a “Marxist organization.”
Harris also spoke of Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists. In 2016, when asked if he would “unequivocally condemn” the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on CNN’s State of the Union, Trump falsely claimed he didn’t know who Duke was or anything about the KKK.
“Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about,” Trump told CNN. “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.”
Harris also pointed at Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy again during the first presidential debate. “You know what he said to them on a stage of 70 million people on a debate stage just recently? ‘Stand back and stand by.’ So, let’s put that where it belongs.”
Despite her laundry list of grievances about Trump’s record on race, Harris acknowledged that it’s not a guarantee that Black men cast their vote for her and Biden.
“I do not believe that anyone has to vote for us,” Sen. Harris said. “I believe we have to earn their vote, and to your point, what is it that will earn that vote.”
Harris ran down a list of issues she and Biden will address to illustrate their campaign’s “commitment” to policies that directly affect Black men in America.
First, she spoke of Biden’s plan to bolster funding and accessibility to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In a previous report from theGrio, Biden released a plan that would give Black families earning less than $125,000 opportunities to go to college for free, including private HBCUs.
Harris, a graduate of Howard University, said that there was a plan to give HBCUs $70 billion funding. “I know what that means in terms of the pipeline for Black men and women to enter the professions and become national and international leaders in those professions,” Harris stated.
Harris said she believes access to education for Black men will increase their potential to sustain comfortable lives for themselves and their loved ones, as well as open the pathway to generational wealth. This includes homeownership, loans for small businesses and decreasing the wealth gap.
“Every Black man I know has a dream for himself or his family now or in the future, which includes being able to provide for their family and do it with dignity and do it with grace,” Senator Harris continued. “We’re going to have a $15,000 tax credit for first time home buyers. It is about understanding Black men want to create wealth.”
In addition to economic opportunities, Senator Harris addressed criminal justice reform. The VP hopeful said she and Biden would implement a nationwide ban on chokeholds and garroted holds by police officers. She is also in favor of creating a national database that keeps track of cops who have “broken the law so that they can’t get fired in one place and get hired in another place.”
Harris says that if elected, she and Biden are committed to “decriminalizing marijuana and expunging the records of the people who have been convicted of marijuana offenses.”
“When you look at the awful war on drugs, [you see] the disproportionate impact it had on Black men, and creating them criminal records that have deprived people access to jobs and housing and basic benefits.”
As theGrio reported, Biden, who wrote the 1994 Crime Bill, said during his Town Hall on ABC last week that parts of the bill were “a big mistake,” in regards to how it disproportionately targeted Black men to being incarcerated.
Sen. Harris said she understands that Black men are being left out of the equation in society, particularly during this current election cycle. Therefore, she contends that addressing issues-particularly relevant to Black men will have a positive effect on all communities.
“When I’m talking to Black men, I know that nobody, including Black men, should be thought of as just a one-issue person,” Harris said.
“The issues that impact Black men impact everybody. The condition of Black men in America impacts every American as far as I’m concerned. And every issue impacts the Black man.”
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!