Sen. Kamala Harris said Friday black women deserve to have a bigger voice in the upper echelons of the Democratic Party and launched a preemptive strike against those that might try to criticize her vision as “identity politics.”
Mrs. Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, is thought to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2020 and told liberal activists gathered in New Orleans for the annual Netroots Nation conference that the Democratic Party must become more diverse.
“The truth is that the folks who helped build the Democratic Party and have been the backbone of the Democratic Party have not always been given equal voice in the Democratic Party and we need to deal with that,” Mr. Harris said.
“The truth is we shouldn’t just be thanking women of color for electing progressive leaders,” the California Democrat said. “In 2018, we should be elected women of color as those leaders.”
The comments reflected a general consensus at the Netroots Nation conference, where speaker after speaker emphasized that younger generations, women and minorities are underrepresented in elected office.
Mrs. Harris said it was no surprise that black women played such a key role in helping Sen. Doug Jones victory over Republican Roy Moore in the special election last year in Alabama.
“That didn’t just magically happen,” she said. “It happened because black women have been putting in the work, going door to door, organizing even when the cameras were focused elsewhere and it is time to respect that leadership.”
Electing more minorities would help shine a light on issues that deserve more attention, including studies that show black women are more likely than white women to die during pregnancy, she said.
As for those that might seek to cast comments in a negative light by labeling them “identity politics,” Mrs. Harris said the critics are trying to “marginalize issues that impact us all.”
“Think about when you’ve heard it raised,” she said. “When we’re talking about race. When we’re talking about gender. When we’re talking about sexual orientation. When we’re talking about civil rights, and, yes, we are talking about these issues, and we won’t be shut up and we won’t be silenced.”
“We won’t be silent about immigrant rights. We won’t be silent about a woman’s right to control her own body,” she said. “We won’t be silent about equal opportunity and equal justice under the law.”
“Let’s be clear, these issues that they are trying to diminish and demean are the very issues that will define our identity as Americans,” she said.