To say that Kamala Harris made history in 2020 is a massive understatement. The country’s first African American, Asian American, female Vice President shattered the glass ceiling in a major way when she ascended to the second-highest office in the land. But it has been an uphill battle for Harris since she took her oath of office in January of 2021. Less than a year into her first term, a USA Today poll had her approval rating at a measly 28 percent – even lower than Dick Cheney’s all-time worst, according to Business Insider. And we’ve reported on the fact that the Vice President is often the subject of hateful, racist attacks on social media.
But should a woman who was elected California’s Attorney General and ran the largest state justice department in the United States have to appear on a late-night talk show playing “God Bless The Child” on the saxophone like Bill Clinton circa 1992 to get people to warm up to her? MSNBC’s Joy Reid spoke exclusively with Vice President Kamala Harris for the network’s special The Culture Is: Black Women, which premieres Sunday, June 19 at 10 pm ET. So I figured she would be the best person to ask why Harris just can’t seem to catch a break.
For starters, Reid says VP Harris is about as real as they come. People just haven’t had a chance to see that side of her. “She’s just a regular sister in the same way people would always say that Michelle Obama is like if your cousin became First Lady. Kamala Harris is like if your cousin became VP of the United States,” she said. “I think she doesn’t get to show that personality often enough, and so people haven’t had a chance to get to know her,” she said.
Add in the fact that her job requires her to tackle some of our country’s biggest issues – issues that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has openly admitted he has no interest in compromising on. “The job she’s had is dead serious, and this time is so serious. Think about her portfolio, voting rights, immigration and the border, and police reform. The things on her plate are the toughest things that the Biden Administration has to deal with outside of inflation and the war in Ukraine,” Reid said.
Reid applauds Harris for surrounding herself with a diverse staff who bring a wide range of perspectives to their work. And she admitted that watching the VP in action got her a little emotional. “Her staff looks like America. Seeing her preside over that meeting with that seal over her shoulder gave me some feelings,” she said. “We decided to keep that moment in the special because I thought it was important for people to see her in that space. I think sometimes the cynicism of our politics makes us forget how important she is and what she represents for us.”
Reid emphasized that Harris is in her role because Black women demanded she be there. “Black women told Joe Biden ‘If you want our support, you can’t have it for free. We’re gonna need a VP who looks like us so that we know we’re on the team. Kamala Harris is a very important figure in our history, and her presence matters,” she said.
Reid told me that she hopes the Vice President will have more opportunities to take control of the narrative created by the talking heads and show Americans who she really is. “Most of the media is still white and male. And their take on Kamala Harris becomes the take. It becomes conventional wisdom,” she said. “I was able to kick off my heels and talk real. We need more conversations like that.”