“A Black woman! #RepresentationMatters,” someone posted on Facebook. “My soror is going to be the next VP! This is a serious matter!” chimed in an older Black woman who is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. “She went from the Hilltop to Capitol Hill,” a Howard University alum cheered on Twitter.
They were talking of course about California Senator and now Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. A Black woman of Indian descent, Harris is the first woman of color on a major party’s national ticket. But for some Black millennial voters, such as myself, it’s an underwhelming historical moment to witness another moderate minority who’s relied on centrist identity politics climb the ladder.
We’ve seen with Barack Obama, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Hillary Clinton, and now Harris how presidential candidates can lean on their exceptionalism—be that a matter of race, sexual orientation, or gender—to appeal to “undecided” voters who are white and straight and male. These candidates are inevitably overqualified in their previous jobs, educated at elite institutions, and have delivered American Dream-esque narratives about how they overcame the very adversity that their straight, white male voters placed them in. These tokenized candidates inevitably offer themselves as ones who will not be too ideologically radical, too platform-progressive, or too much of a threat to status-quo party politics.