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.

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In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

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Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

It sounds like a ridiculous, sensationalist headline, but it's real. In Cheshire County, New Hampshire, a transsexual, anarchist Satanist has won the GOP nomination for county sheriff. Aria DiMezzo, who refers to herself as a "She-Male" and whose campaign motto was "F*** the Police," ran as a Republican in the primary. Though she ran unopposed on the ballot, according to Fox News, she anticipated that she would lose to a write-in candidate. Instead, 4,211 voters filled in the bubble next to her name, making her the official Republican candidate for county sheriff.

DiMezzo is clear about why she ran—to show how "clueless the average voter is" and to prove that "the system is utterly and hopelessly broken"—stances that her win only serves to reinforce.

In a blog post published on Friday, DiMezzo explained how she had never tried to hide who she was and that anyone could have looked her up to see what she was about, in addition to pointing out that those who are angry with her have no one to blame but themselves:

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Courtesy of Back on My Feet
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Having graduated in the top 10% of Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) cadets nationwide in 2012, Pat Robinson was ready to take on a career in the Air Force full speed ahead.

Despite her stellar performance in the classroom and training grounds, Robinson feared other habits she'd picked up at Ohio University had sent her down the wrong tracks.

First stationed near Panama City, Florida, Robinson became reliant on alcohol while serving as an air battle manager student. After barnstorming through Atlanta's nightclubs on New Year's Eve, Robinson failed a drug test and lied to her commanding officer about the results.

Eleven months later, she was dismissed. Feeling ashamed and directionless, Robinson briefly returned home to Cleveland before venturing west to look for work in San Francisco.

After a brief stint working at a paint store, Robinson found herself without a source of income and was relegated to living in her car. Robinson's garbage can soon became littered with parking tickets and her car was towed. Golden Gate Park's cool grass soon replaced her bed.

"My substance abuse spiraled very quickly," Robinson said. "You name it, I probably used it. Very quickly I contracted HIV and Hepatitis C. I was arrested again and again and was finally charged and sentenced to substance abuse treatment."

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