On Friday, Oct. 23, vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris fielded questions about her record as a prosecutor in front of a Black audience at a restaurant located near Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
During the discussion, music mogul Jermaine Dupri voiced concerns over Harris’ time as attorney general in California.
“You put a lot of Black brothers away in your past,” Dupri said, asking Harris to address her record.
“Yes I was a prosecutor,” she said. “I decided to go in a system that I knew was flawed, to reform it. Yes, I decided to go up the rough side of the mountain, as we say in church.” She said she was not able to fix the system, before referring to some of what she considers first in the nation re-entry programs she has headed.
“I created this whole initiative focused on young men who were young adult men arrested for drug sales, to give them jobs and support, and then I dismissed the charges against them.” She said the program was designated as a model for innovation by the Department of Justice under Eric Holder.
“I’m not going to tell anybody, including Black men, that they’re supposed to vote for us. We need to earn that vote,” she said.
Harris’s pitch to Black men comes as President Donald Trump appeals to Black men for their support.
“Donald Trump has this goal to turn 20% of Black men out in favor of him,” Harris said, before blasting the president for his controversial comments about race. She pointed out Trump’s support of the birther movement, which promoted the idea that the “first black man to be President of the United States was illegitimately there,” and also zeroed in on his failure to condemn the neo-Nazis who attended the Charlottesville rally, and, more recently, the Proud Boys.
In recent days, two prominent Black men seemingly have expressed support for Trump. Ice Cube announced that he’s working with Trump on the Platinum Plan for Black Americans, while 50 Cent suggested on Instagram that he would support Trump because of his disapproval of Biden’s tax policy, which will raise the tax rate for Americans making more than $400,000. However, 50 Cent appeared to walk back his endorsement of Trump days later, saying: “I never liked him.”
Harris’s record as prosecutor, district attorney, and state attorney general has been criticized since she has risen up the ranks within the Democratic party.
When the Orange County “snitch” scandal made national headlines, Harris was serving as California’s attorney general. In violation of inmates’ right to an attorney, prosecutors and deputies in Orange County reportedly had a long-running practice of misusing inmate informants to gain jailhouse confessions and then mischaracterizing these actions to courts
Harris, the state’s top law enforcement official when the scandal broke in 2015, backed the Orange County DA’s office in its attempts to preserve convictions that arose from those tainted jailhouse snitch cases.
“Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors,” wrote law professor Lara Bazelon in a 2019 column in the New York Times.