Told ya. Last year I predicted that Sen. Kamala Harris would be someone who would quickly stand out among her colleagues. And has she! In two recent televised Senate hearings, the junior senator demonstrated her formidable skills as a former prosecutor. Her focused questioning of first the former FBI director, and later Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was a world away from the self-serving softballs pitched by some of her fellow male colleagues. To paraphrase a popular song — now everybody knows her name.
It didn’t matter that her turn in the spotlight came well after a half-dozen other senators with more seniority. Normally a first term senator would not be seen or heard for a while. But before she came to Washington, Sen. Kamala Harris told her constituents she would speak up on their behalf. When she finally got the microphone, she showed the skills Californians had witnessed during her years as the first female District Attorney of San Francisco and later as Attorney General of the state. No mangled semantics for her. No, her pointed line of questioning cut through with scalpel-like precision. Immediately, her fellow Senate Committee members shouted their irritation to the Committee Chair asking him to make her stop. Note — none of the vocal complainers raised objections as several men — Sen. Angus King and Sen. Ron Wyden — asked equally tough questions. Only Sen. Harris was chastised, only Sen. Harris was later called “hysterical” by President Trump’s former spokesperson.
Most women who heard or saw her in action recognized the male response for what it was — another case of "mansplaining." In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, Merriam Webster’s formal definition describes mansplaining as a man explaining to a woman “in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.” A lot of women, including me, have experienced mansplaining’s various expressions — the scolding, the interrupting, the shushing, the talking over, and of course, the ever-popular repeating what I just said as if it were an original thought.
Hundreds of women of color sent stories and tweets to point out the racial overtones of Harris’ disrespect. They saw the dismissal of a woman of black and South Asian ancestry who had earned the authority to question former FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Sessions, only to have her authority questioned. An authority so unnerving to Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, he complained,” It makes me nervous.”
Sen. Kamala Harris is probably going to make a lot more people nervous during her tenure in the Senate. As she promised her constituents in a tweet, “I will do everything in my power to get the truth for the American people.”
And I think others may be beginning to see her as I do — as the next best hope to be America’s first female president. No better credentials, perhaps, than someone like she who will not be silenced, but who also has a lot more to say.