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Kamala Harris's slave owner ancestry isn't a 'gotcha,' but a tragic historic reality
Lauren-Ashley Howard/Twitter, Wikimedia Commons

The lengths people will go to discredit a political figure—especially a Black female politician—is pretty astounding. Since Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate, we've seen "birther" claims that she wasn't really born in the U.S. (she was), alternating claims that she's too moderate or too radical (which can't both be true), and a claim apparently designed to be a "gotcha"—that her ancestor in Jamaica was a slave owner.

According to Politifact, the claim that Harris descends from a slave owners is likely true. In their rather lengthy fact check on her lineage, which has not revealed any definitive answers, they conclude, "It seems possible that Kamala Harris is as likely a descendant of a slave-owner as she is an enslaved person." But that doesn't mean what the folks who are using that potential descencency as a weapon seem to think it means.


It's a well-known historical fact that many people with Black ancestry in the Americas have lineage that extends directly to white slave owners. It wasn't uncommon for enslavers to rape the people they enslaved—a tragic but true reality that may very well have been the case in Harris's family tree.

Writer Lauren-Ashley Howard expounded on this fact on Twitter, writing, "I have news for you about the descendants of enslaved Africans—damn near ALL of us have a Hamilton Brown in our family tree. Because enslaved women were regularly raped by the white men who owned them. You tried it, though."

According to a deep dive into the topic of American bloodlines in Pacific Standard magazine, many Black Americans have European ancestry stemming from the century of sexual exploitation of enslaved Africans before the Civil War. Slavery in the Caribbean, where Harris's Jamaican ancestors come from, has a similar history.

As a Black person, being descended from a slave owner is not proof of some kind of historical hypocrisy, but rather a not uncommon result of a historical tragedy. Enslaving someone is a heinous enough affront to their humanity. Raping them while enslaving them is the stuff of nightmares and horror movies. That's a lineage fraught with uncomfortable questions and painful stories—not something to be used to attack a Black candidate for office.

Racism isn't just hating people with a different skin color. It's also being willfully ignorant of racial history and using a person's skin color to spin a narrative that paints them in a negative light. Trying to make Harris look bad by pointing out her enslaver ancestry—as if a Black person with such ancestry is somehow hypocritical—betrays a woeful lack of historical understanding and a gross desire to use her race as a weapon.

There may be legitimate criticisms one could make about Harris, but this isn't one of them.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


Being married is like being half of a two-headed monster. It's impossible to avoid regular disagreements when you're bound to another person for the rest of your life. Even the perfect marriage (if there was such a thing) would have its daily frustrations. Funnily enough, most fights aren't caused by big decisions but the simple, day-to-day questions, such as "What do you want for dinner?"; "Are we free Friday night?"; and "What movie do you want to see?"

Here are some hilarious tweets that just about every married couple will understand.

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Democracy

A man told me gun laws would create more 'soft targets.' He summed up the whole problem.

As far as I know, there are only two places in the world where people living their lives are referred to as 'soft targets.'

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Only in America are kids in classrooms referred to as "soft targets."

On the Fourth of July, a gunman opened fire at a parade in quaint Highland Park, Illinois, killing at least six people, injuring dozens and traumatizing (once again) an entire nation.

My family member who was at the parade was able to flee to safety, but the trauma of what she experienced will linger. For the toddler with the blood-soaked sock, carried to safety by a stranger after being pulled from under his father's bullet-torn body, life will never be the same.

There's a phrase I keep seeing in debates over gun violence, one that I can't seem to shake from my mind. After the Uvalde school shooting, I shared my thoughts on why arming teachers is a bad idea, and a gentleman responded with this brief comment:

"Way to create more soft targets."

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Paul Rudd in 2016.

Passing around your yearbook to have it signed by friends, teachers and classmates is a fun rite of passage for kids in junior high and high school. But, according to KDVR, for Brody Ridder, a bullied sixth grader at The Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, Colorado, it was just another day of putting up with rejection.

Poor Brody was only able to get four signatures in his yearbook, two from what appeared to be teachers and one from himself that said, “Hope you make some more friends."

Brody’s mom, Cassandra Ridder has been devastated by the bullying her son has faced over the past two years. "There [are] kids that have pushed him and called him names," she told The Washington Post. It has to be terrible to have your child be bullied and there is nothing you can do.

She posted about the incident on Facebook.

“My poor son. Doesn’t seem like it’s getting any better. 2 teachers and a total of 2 students wrote in his yearbook,” she posted on Facebook. “Despite Brody asking all kinds of kids to sign it. So Brody took it upon himself to write to himself. My heart is shattered. Teach your kids kindness.”

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