“How is she so black but she married a white guy?”
Sen. Kamala Harris was forced to defend her blackness in a radio interview that aired Monday, including by explaining why she married a white man.
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The hosts of New York’s “The Breakfast Club” asked Harris – a California Democrat who is running for president – about internet memes that have questioned her African-American identity based on the immigrant backgrounds of her parents and her high school years in Canada.
Harris noted that she was born in Oakland, California, and went on to reject “powerful voices trying to sow hate and division.”
Later in the interview, which has since been widely discussed in the press, she said: “I’m black, and I’m proud of being black. I was born black. I will die black, and I’m not going to make excuses for anybody because they don’t understand.”
Harris also made the case for identity politics in general.
“I’ve been disturbed by how people are using this phase, identity politics, because they use it in a way to basically have you shut up when you’re talking about issues or race, or gender or sexual orientation. ‘Oh, that’s identity politics, you’re playing that card,'” she said, imitating opponents of the trend.
“Here’s my point: Let’s not be shut up when we’re talking about civil rights issues, because the way that we handle and address those issues is a statement about who we are as Americans, and our identity as Americans. The way we treat black people in America is an indication of America’ identity.”
She then took her argument step further, saying that playing identity politics is necessary to protect the United States from Russia, which she said had tried to “get people off their game” by meddling in the 2016 elections.
“What the Russians have made very clear, if we weren’t before, is that the issue of race is America’s Achilles’ heel, and it has now become an issue that is not only about civil rights but also an issue that is about national security. How about that? How about that?
Harris cited her membership on the Senate’s Intelligence Committee and Homeland Security Committee to bolster her case.
She also responded to critics of her performance as California state attorney general who have accused her of being too tough on black suspects. Harris said she had prosecuted violent criminals to keep communities safe, but added that she wished she could have done more to affect change “from the inside.”
When the hosts pressed her on what she had done “to hurt black people,” she said: “I regret not having done enough.”
On the issue of marijuana, which California legalized in 2017 but remains generally banned under federal law, Harris said she supports the drug, and admitted to smoking pot in her youth.
“I did inhale,” she said.
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Harris seemed to say that she listened to Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur when high, and she named her favorite musician of the moment as rapper Cardi B, who has lately tangled with prominent conservatives and criticized President Donald Trump online.
As the interview was wrapping up, one of the hosts, Charlamagne Tha God, asked Harris to respond to those who ask: “How is she so black but she married a white guy?”
WATCH: The Full Interview Here