The Birthers Come For Kamala Harris
A new racist meme questioning Kamala Harris's background is circulating on the Internet.
California Senator Kamala Harris is the latest political candidate to be subjected to a ridiculous and ill-informed claim about her birth, and while this one doesn’t allege that she is ineligible to be President (at least not yet) it does have the same racist tinge to it that similar claims about former President Obama did:
The apparently bot-aided onslaught is claiming the senator doesn’t represent U.S. blacks because her father was born in Jamaica. Harris, an American of both Jamaican and Indian descent, was born in Oakland, California.
Donald Trump Jr.retweeted the original attack but later deleted it. Meanwhile, the president’s former campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson tried to discredit Harris another way, indicating she is not African enough to run as a minority presidential candidate. She tweeted that “while Obama is actually African-American — Harris is not,” even though people of African descent have lived in Jamaica for centuries.
The slam appeared Thursday night shortly after the Democratic presidential debate, where Harris had powerfully raised her own experiences being bused as a child in California to battle school desegregation
The attack appeared to be launched by a self-described “black activist” identifying himself as “Ali Alexander” on an unverified Twitter account. He claimed in a video and tweet that Harris cannot represent the black experience in America because she has “no ancestors who suffered American Slavery, the Civil War, nor Jim Crow.”
Alexander is actually a far-right political operative and conspiracy theorist Ali Akbar, or Ali Abdul Razaq Akbar, whom Politico profiled last year as an “increasingly prominent pro-Trump supporter.” On the eve of the 2016 election, Robert Mercer donated $60,000 to a PAC that Alexander advises, Politico reported.
Akbar, posing as Alexander, boasted that his tweets “went viral.” In fact, his message was nearly instantaneously picked up word for word and disseminated by several Twitter accounts that have been identified as bots, BuzzFeed reported.
Social media researcher Caroline Orr pointed out that the original tweet also drew in other attacks falsely claiming Harris wasn’t born in the U.S.
These claims about Harris echo the right-wing lie against Obama — pitched repeatedly by Trump — that the first black U.S. president was born in Africa and had no legal right to be an American president. Similarly, Alexander is saying Harris has no right to represent black people in the U.S. because her father was foreign-born.
Harris has experienced similar attacks questioning her race, her racial experiences and her citizenship. In an interview early this year, Harris said: “This is the same thing they did to Barack, this is not new to us.” She added that “powerful voices” are “trying to sow hate and division among us. We need to recognize when we’re being played.”
Harris aide Lily Adams ripped Donald Trump Jr.’s retweet of Alexander’s attack to The New York Times on Friday. “This is the same type of racist attack his father used to attack Barack Obama,” she said. “It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”
Trump Jr. has since deleted the retweet in question, but its source, a far-right “activist” who presently goes by the name “Ali Alexander,” and has a long history of criminal fraud and other crimes, is touting the fact that the tweet went viral and “Alexander” continues to defend his absurd assertion that the fact that Harris’s father is Jamaican means that she is not a “real” African-American. It is as absurd a claim as the ones that questioned the citizenship of Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, and, most recently, Congresswoman and Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. In each of these cases, the claims made by those spreading the conspiracy theory were clearly false, something that it would have easy to figure out with just a momentary look at the evidence and relevant law.
The talk about Harris’s background, of course, has the same racist background that the talk about Obama not being a citizen or being a “secret Muslim” did. It’s meant to undermine her legitimacy and to divert attention from other, more relevant facts. Granted, Harris’s background is unique in that she has a Jamaican father and a mother from India, but that doesn’t make her any less American and, given the fact that Jamaica itself was populated by people from Africa in addition to its native population, it doesn’t make her any less “black”either.