Being the first Black anything is a tough enough burden to carry, but being the first Black female vice president might be an even heavier load. The weight of responsibility begs the question Black folk must always ask: am I being given the right task and am I being set up to win or fail?
We can imagine Kamala Harris has asked herself that question and we hope she’ll grace us with the answer soon. Maybe she’ll take the opportunity at the National Action Network’s 30th anniversary event, where she will deliver the keynote address. On Nov. 1. Rev. Al Sharpton and NAN will celebrate 30 years of the organization’s activism and impact on the Black community. Rev. Sharpton is calling the event, which will take place at Carnegie Hall in New York City, a “Celebration Above All.” The gala is expected to get a lot of media attention because Vice President Harris will be there. Will she answer the question though? We don’t know, but Rev. Al sure has some opinions.
In an exclusive interview for The Root, Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, and a prominent voice in the civil rights community, detailed his thoughts on Harris’ job responsibilities so far.
The Root: You mentioned that Vice President Kamala Harris would speak at NAN’s 30th anniversary this year. There has been some dissatisfaction with her assigned duties so far, and in a recent interview, author and CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers called her portfolio “trash.” What are your thoughts on that?
Rev. Al Sharpton: I want to see her be used more effectively, and I think her being in charge of voting was important, but I question her other assignments. You might remember, when Joe Biden said that he was going to appoint a woman to run with him and appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court, I challenged him and said, “Why don’t you have a Black woman run like Stacey (Abrams) or Kamala?” and I had him on my MSNBC show and confronted him. So in many ways, we were the ones who stood up for her to be in that position and we want her to have a strong position, not marginal positions. I think that he did the right thing giving her voting, but I think he should continue to give her more positions of power.
TR: What can NAN do to push for the vice president to have more significant responsibilities?
RAS: NAN will continue to fight for her to be in a position of power because we want to see her thrive, and I will communicate that to the President. It would be unwise for me to have her at my event and use that as a platform to raise the issue, so instead, I will speak directly to the President.
TR: Do you have a timeline for when you will be communicating with the President?
RAS: We probably will be meeting with him within the next 30 days. We have reached out to him and said we want to meet. We have had two meetings with him, and we intend to meet with him before mid-November. He is going to this climate thing, and we want to meet with him right after that.
TR: You mentioned earlier that you would like to see her do more. What issues would you like to see her take on that she isn’t involved in right now?
RAS: I would like the president to put her in charge of the voting package and criminal justice. Also, he needs to put Kamala at the forefront of the George Floyd bill that he promised to get through. She was a prosecutor and a state attorney general, so she knows the criminal justice system and understands both sides. She is also a Black woman in the time of Breonna Taylor and other Black women who have suffered racism, so I think that she should have those assignments and be able to get certain things to Congress.