I first met Senator Kamala Harris in February 2011 as she gave the keynote address for NARAL Pro-Choice’s 38th anniversary luncheon in Washington, D.C. She highly impressed me. That was before she became a U.S. Senator and now candidate for Democratic nominee for president. I followed her campaign for president as well as that of the other 20 plus candidates. I watched as she opened her campaign headquarters in my hometown -Baltimore. Her presidential campaign appeared to be at times—lackluster and devoid of what I saw of her in 2011.
At last night’s debate, Senator Harris shined like a rare diamond. As a black woman and former prosecutor, I could not have been prouder of Kamala Harris than if she were my own sister. The debate exchange between Senator Harris and Vice President Joe Biden was emotional and a rare teaching lesson for America. While discussing the issue of school busing and Biden’s past support against busing Black students to integrate schools, she made the point clear and plain. It showed a Biden that was out of step then and out of step now. One of the things that I was always taught by my parents was to apologize if you were wrong or if you wronged someone–ever. Everyone makes past mistakes. Biden should have apologized when asked by Senator Harris on both counts. Instead he chose to defend the indefensible. Biden attempted to justify his position and support it even now.
As Senator Harris’ statements made clear, without busing to integrate Berkley, California schools, she would not have likely been a U.S. Senator, Attorney General or any other high position—as she would have been relegated to second class schools. While I was not bused to schools and allowed to attend the schools of my choice in Baltimore, I know that those opportunities allowed me to receive a quality education and ultimately become an attorney. However, I also have cousins the same age as Kamala Harris who were bused to schools in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The issue of busing and segregation will be important as candidates head to South Carolina and southern states. In most southern states, many black voters are aware of segregation and how it affected them. That includes younger black voters who heard stories from their grandparents and parents.
Senator Harris’ record as a California prosecutor also merits attention by voters. Many progressive voters criticize Harris for her stances on criminal justice during her days as California Attorney General and District Attorney of San Francisco. Many California voters criticized Harris as State Attorney General on wrongful convictions, police shootings and criminalizing truancy—to name a few.
Kamala Harris deserves a close look by all Americans as she seeks the highest office in America. She deserves a close look—not because she is a black woman. She deserves a close look because she showed last night that she is highly qualified. She deserves America’s attention. Senator Harris showed that she can take on Donald Trump—in the same manner that she took on Joe Biden.
Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor.