Written by: Peggy Brooks Bertram, Dr.P.H., Ph.D.
For two months now I have been fielding letters of congratulation for Kamala Harris from women in at least eleven different countries. But, these letters are not just for Senator Harris — they are also for the American people.
Marchers: If we listen carefully, we can still hear the synchronicity of your boots on the streets marching for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin. We see your banners raised high and your Black Lives Matter shirts. But we also need you to document your truth about these events. We need you to leave a trail of written records, minus the boatload of emojis that will never replace the value of your words.
We need you to write in real words, in real speak, your real feelings for this candidate. We need to you to inquire seriously about the assurances she provides so that we as voters can know who she really is. This is no time to be the “silent majority.” How can you be the silent majority? Look at the data: In 2016, you voted in larger numbers than Baby Boomers! And you will need to do so again.
What? You have some problems with Kamala Harris? Well, spit it out! Put them on the table. Let me help you! You can begin by identifying clearly the “horse” she rode in on — multi-ethnic, Asian and African with a predilection for identifying as African American — HBCU education, big time sorority girl AKA with 300,000 strong sisters — married to a white man — light-skinned with long hair, prosecutorial background. That is part of the saddle she sits on. You are free to examine the saddle she sits on, critique how she uses the bit to guide that horse, and evaluate how these elements currently reflect, or will reflect on her decisions for the country — and perhaps the world. You have the energy, vitality, and wide-reaching wherewithal to become the burr under her saddle, the spur that urges her on.
She is not perfect, and there are no perfect remedies that will cure the ills of America with its long postcolonial white male patriarchal history. Still, that does not silence the roar of the crowd that supports her steed. They’re not just calling out — they are shouting. “Don’t you make us give up on you!” With all her imperfections, we know this country’s history of colonization. We are committed to disentangling its deep roots from our lives and exposing them. We won’t be fooled into continuing white, male, patriarchal social, political, cultural, and religious dogma, as it is not the skin we are in and certainly not the horse we rode in on.
Fellow marchers, we know that we must change things at the root. We may be perceived as a silent majority, whispering now, but you will hear us roar. In 2018, we accounted for 68% of the Black female vote — a larger percentage than the Baby Boomers in whose footsteps we have followed. However, we will no longer whisper about climate change while California burns; about Medicare for All while people are dying during a pandemic; about whiffing on our international responsibilities for a diminished role at the G8 summit and the European theater; about respect for the Brown and Black and yellow and red peoples of the world while despots keep control. And yes, we will help the scientists wrestle coronavirus to the ground with all that the scientists tell us. We won’t forget the ever-present challenges necessary to tame a colonized society, even if the remaining male patriarchy yanks the reins each time we assert our political power.
Kamala, we need you to call for justice for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, now for Jonathan Price, and more and more (say their names), murdered in our country. Call for Medicare for All or the equivalent. Call for support for transgender and binary young people coming into their own without fear of societal retribution.
Kamala, anyone, including you, can stumble and fall. We are here to catch you. We know you can’t clean up this mess quickly or alone, so we stand with you. But we’re watching to see how you handle this steed you rode in on.
What can you do, this not-so-silent majority? Joe Biden and Kamala Harris need you! Share your support, vision, and solutions in a letter as part of the #TheHarrisLettersProject. There you can shout your concerns to have them heard by this candidate — the best one we’ve had to date.
Document your concerns for the historical record. That’s what changemakers do.
Dr. Bertram is a resident of Buffalo, New York, a historian and community activist, and the author of numerous books on the history of African American women and President and Co-Founder of the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, Inc.
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