Who is Kamala Harris?

Her Past and Current Policies and the Significance of Her Being Nominated for VP

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Introduction 

Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California in 1964. Her Jamaican father was a professor at Stanford University, and her Indian mother was a cancer researcher. Following in her parents' distinguished footsteps, Harris would eventually become the first Asian American and second African American woman to serve as a US Senator, as well as the first Black woman nominated for Vice President in a major party ticket. Her nomination is a historic choice, representing a significant milestone for women and BIPOC. 

Past Policies

As Chief of the Career Criminal Division, Harris was tough on crime. Notably, she opposed Proposition 21, which tried minors in the superior courts as adults, and was demoted for holding this position. As district attorney (DA) for San Francisco, she believed “it’s not progressive to be soft on crime”. Once in power, she worked quickly and controversially to raise the conviction rate, from 50% to 79%. She is responsible for convicting 1,900 marijuana cases which disproportionately affected Black and Brown communities and families. 

However, Harris rarely prosecuted low-level marijuana charges and lowered the amount of cases sent to state prisons. Harris also held an anti-gun stance, which means she pushed to raise bail for gun crimes and ban gun shows. She notably created the Environmental Crimes unit, a Hate Crimes Unit, and opposed the death penalty. Additionally, as Attorney General, her refusal to defend Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, helped lead to its eventual overturn, showing her actions supporting the LGBTQ community. Her other work led to a 23% decrease in truancy in schools. Harris also helped pass anti-bias laws for fair juries, and educated prosecutors on bias in sentencing. One of her most successful programs was the San Francisco Reentry Division, which was led by civil rights activist Lateefah Simon. Because of this program, nonviolent criminals who were not gang-affiliated could plead guilty and opt into a reentry program, where they would complete community service, get parental training, and receive a high school equivalency diploma while maintaining steady employment. After completing this program, the court would then dismiss the case and expunge the graduate’s record, lowering recidivism, also known as “re-offending”. Other states started programs for reentry, using Harris’s as a blueprint.

Her Current Policies and Actions

Harris’s current policies show her progressive growth from her past as a DA. In 2015, Harris ran for Senate calling for immigration and criminal justice reforms, increases to minimum wage, and protection of women’s reproductive rights. As a senator, Harris has co-sponsored bills regarding issues like Medicare for all and expanding gun control measures. Harris has also changed her stance on marijuana and announced a bill that would decriminalize it. During her presidential run, she planned to expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and use executive action to provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. “DACA has been unreservedly good for the U.S. economy” because DACA recipients will “contribute $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product [GDP] over the next decade”, says the The Center for American Progress. The Trump administration has attempted to end the Obama-era program. 

Kamala Harris also pledged to eliminate private prisons and mandatory minimum sentences in order to end mass incarceration. Most significantly to the team of The BLM Basic Guide, Kamala Harris has become a leading advocate for “social justice reform” after the death of George Floyd. Regarding her voting track record, Gov Track ranked Harris as “most liberal compared to all senators.” Progressives also note that Harris has voted alongside Bernie Sanders 93% of the time. 

Political Strategy of VP Pick and Significance 

There are many reasons why Kamala Harris was chosen as Biden’s Vice President selection alongside her accomplished political and professional career. One of Harris’s most defining characteristics is that she is the first Black and Asian woman nominated as VP for a major party. Her race and current policies make her an appealing candidate for progressives, as well as those that feel represented by her race and gender. Additionally, she was also a safe pick since her role as District and Attorney General appeal to moderates. Harris’s prosecutorial record and accomplishments also make it difficult for Republicans to label her as anti-law enforcement, a key strategy in this year's presidential election. Harris is viewed as “pleasant, earnest and fair”, and is comfortable engaging in debates and on television, all qualities that make her a perfect VP pick, along with her progressive policies and past career. 

 

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WRITTEN BY:

Adrian Antonioli & Marcella Rodio

GUIDE WRITING TEAM

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This resource aims to amplify the voices of the Black community, educate people of all ages and races about the Black Lives Matter movement, and guide the country towards a place of equity. 

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