Protecting Madam Vice President Kamala Harris, a national treasure, at all costs
OPINION: Like with our nation’s first Black president, there is some deep-felt anxiety about Kamala Harris’s safety after the Capitol insurrection
Kamala Devi Harris has been sworn and is now the first female vice president in U.S. history. And speculation has already begun about 2024 as to whether Biden will run again or if Harris will serve as his heir apparent.
For me, as a woman of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., as a Black woman, as a woman in her 50s, as an attorney, as a professional woman with no biological kids, who loves her nieces as if they were my own, I have a lot in common with the new VP. And I could not be more proud of her, and for her, in this truly historic and majestic national moment.
Kamala Harris has a chance to once again make history in the near future: She could also become the nation’s first female commander in chief. Presently, Harris is the first woman of color in a sea of white men before her to be just a heartbeat away from the presidency. She will be Joe Biden’s right hand and what he was to former President Barack Obama: the last one in the room.
Harris will be the last voice Biden hears before he makes crucial decisions like whether to go to war, raise taxes, fight COVD-19, exact justice, establish policy, and so forth. But, just like with our nation’s first Black president, there is some deep-felt anxiety about Harris’s safety after the Capitol insurrection, and the deep racial and political divisions we now see (again) in America.
As we all watched Biden and Harris being sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, with pride in our hearts, the moment that made it all the more powerful, came just before the swearing-in when former President Barack Obama and our new Madam Vice President Harris connected with the classic Obama fist bump. And if that wasn’t enough to make us beam with pride, we watched some serious Black Girl Magic between former First Lady Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris as they did the sister “finger point” and look that any Black person easily interpreted as a “girl you better go ahead and do that!”
It was all beautiful — except for the stark reality that was looming in the background. The reality that the safety of our new president and vice president is not certain. And neither is our nation. Just weeks before the majestic transfer of power, the U.S. Capitol had been ransacked and destroyed by violent insurrectionists and white domestic terrorists. The very reason the National Guard was called in (in excessive numbers: over 25,000) was so that the inauguration could actually take place outside safely and show the nation — and world — the peaceful transfer of power.
So is our new vice president, a woman, and a woman of color, safe in her new role? Having worked with the U.S. Secret service and watched them in action day to day when I covered the Obama White House 2010-2012, I would say emphatically yes. However, given the evidence we now have that insurrectionists planned to harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Mike Pence, it’s imperative that Biden and Harris are protected at all cost.
Let us not forget that just 12 years ago, America’s first Black president and his family had to have increased security (even during the 2008 campaign) and faced increased death threats far more dangerously and frequently than his predecessors. As you may remember, candidate Obama had to be assigned secret service detail as early as 2007 in the primaries, not at his request, but at the request of Illinois senior Senator Dick Durbin who was worried about his safety.
After Obama’s election in November 2008, according to an NBC News Story titled, “Obama Election Spurs Race Threat, Crime,” law enforcement saw an increase in hate crimes and threats to Black citizens. And, in 2009, once Obama became president, he was rumored to receive as many as 30 death threats a day.
Fast forward to Jan. 6, 2021, and we were once again reminded of the danger of white rage and resentment on steroids. Thankfully Mayor Muriel Bowser secured the city of D.C., and along with federal authorities, secured the inauguration tradition and the peaceful transfer of power.
But now the care of our first woman VP is in the hands of our nation’s United States Secret Service agents, who are an amazing group of public servants who have long been trusted as nonpartisans who are now also diverse in that there are female agents, Black agents, LGBTQ agents, Latino agents, etc.
Yet, one of the most disturbing news stories to emerge post the Capitol siege is that agents across the government and in the military chain of command may have been compromised. What’s more, they had to undergo background checks for possible radicalization before the inauguration and being placed on Biden and Harris’s details.
That was a wake-up call that we never saw coming. But, perhaps, we should have.
The bottom line is this: Kamala Harris isharri a rare national treasure and we must protect her not just from physical harm but from nasty, misogynistic language, that Black and Brown women are so often victims to. This language came from Trump, former Senator David Perdue (R-GA), and others who called her names, demeaned her, or simply refused to pronounce her name properly.
If we are going to teach our daughters, nieces, and granddaughters about a brave new world of opportunity for them, then they need the same institutional protections from both physical threats and emotional harm that white women enjoy.
Sophia Nelson is a contributing editor to thegrio.com.
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