Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s 900AM-WURD. The views expressed here are solely hers.
Roxanne Jones: Kamala Harris is every woman who has ever earned a position of power and has not been afraid to use it
Senators, step aside, stop interrupting and let the woman do her job, writes Jones
Washington may be a tough town where the big boys roam free, but apparently, freshman Sen. Kamala Devi Harris makes these career politicians nervous.
Educated, experienced and ready to rumble, the senator from California will not be silenced, especially when it comes to getting at the truth in the Russian investigation hanging over Donald Trump’s administration, though that is exactly what her male colleagues want to do: silence her.
Again and again during the Senate intelligence committee hearings into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Harris, who is of black and Indian descent, has been reprimanded by her all-white male colleagues for simply doing her job: asking direct questions and expecting direct answers in return.
By her colleagues and by pundits, she’s been called too tough, too rude, even hysterical by one former Trump campaign adviser. The only senator to be cut off for asking tough questions in these hearings has been Harris, once last week while questioning Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and then again Tuesday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions was testifying.
This reaction to Harris is a double standard. An ugly intimidation tactic applied to working women that should not be tolerated. Not today. Because let’s be clear, what really appears to rankle these men is Harris’ courage, her confidence in her own skin. She is a woman of color who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. It’s for the good of the nation that she refuses to be silent.
Harris’ questions, though persistent, have never crossed the line of being rude or disrespectful. She doesn’t raise her voice or throw around accusations or insults.
Not a peep of reproach was heard from men on the committee as her colleague and fellow Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, accused Sessions of “stonewalling.” Other senators also got into tense exchanges.
Senators, this is unacceptable.
Something tells me that Harris, who served two terms as San Francisco’s first female district attorney and then was the first woman elected as California attorney general, has been through this before, maybe her entire career.
I know that I certainly have, and frankly it’s gotten a little boring. This old “boys club” strategy is familiar: the blatant disrespect and machismo that singles out women, especially intelligent women of color, who insist on being a part of the conversation.
Kamala Harris is every working woman who has ever earned a position of power and has not been afraid to use it. She is an inspiration. The way she approaches her career reminds us women that we need not carry the weight of men who have not learned to see us as equals. We cannot allow them to hold us back, or silence us into self-doubt.
For me, Harris represents every woman who’s ever decided to stand up and be heard, no matter how large or small our platform. She is Sen. Maxine Waters and Michelle Obama. She is Arianna Huffington and Hillary Clinton. She is me. And she is you.
Many Americans watching the Senate hearings this week related to Harris’ frustrations as Sessions continuously refused to give direct answers. She, like others on the committee, were weary of Sessions’ repeated nonanswers of “I don’t recall,” or, “I don’t remember.” Harris wanted a “yes” or “no” answer.
Seemingly, less concerned with getting a firm answer than they were with rescuing Sessions, Sens. John McCain (who isn’t even on the Senate intelligence committee) and Richard Burr, committee chairman, cut off Harris’ questioning.
These are not delicate days. Wednesday’s tragic politically motivated shooting, which injured GOP Rep. Steve Scalise and four others at a Republican baseball team practice ahead of a charity baseball game, make it seem as if our political divisions grow deeper each day. But we have to hope that some things are still sacred. Surely, we can agree on some general principles of democracy:
Russia interfering with a US election can’t be tolerated.
The possibility that political operatives may have colluded with a foreign government, in any way, must be investigated.
And, any possibility that the President of the United States or any of his operatives tried to obstruct justice must be investigated to the fullest extent of the law, no matter how many tough questions it takes to get to the truth.
Americans want answers. We want to believe the truth still matters in politics. Kamala Harris is a refreshing, truth-seeking voice.
So senators, step aside, stop interrupting and let the woman do her job.