America is seeing only the beginning of the attacks that Kamala Harris will face. Voters will expect her to be supportive of Joe Biden, of course, but they will inevitably find her insufficiently loyal and deferential. They will dismiss her as angry, cold, and schoolmarmish. They will hear her voice as shrill and grating. They will call her inauthentic, a liar, and a phony. Many people will want too much, and too much of the wrong things, from Harris, and will hold her to an unattainable standard because of her gender and race. Given her identity, her talents, and the barriers she is breaking, she will be subject to an ugly morass of biases—an embarrassment of misogyny and racism.
Republicans have already started in on her—with Donald Trump repeatedly calling her “nasty,” his favorite insult for women, and Luray, Virginia, Mayor Barry Presgraves labeling her “Aunt Jemima.” John Eastman, who once ran unsuccessfully against Harris for California attorney general, reinvented the racist “birther” wheel by disputing Harris’s eligibility for vice president on grounds entirely spurious.
Some Democrats have pounced as well. According to a report by Politico, Former Senator Chris Dodd remarked that Harris “had no remorse” about what was described as her “ambush” of Biden onstage during the first Democratic debate—more accurately, Harris holding Biden accountable for waxing lyrical about his shameful history of working with segregationists, particularly on opposing busing. Dodd reportedly seemed most perturbed by Harris’s matter-of-fact take on the exchange: “She laughed and said, ‘That’s politics.’” What a small occasion for pearl-clutching. Yet Harris’s failure to bend and scrape before a white man is a classic basis for the suspicion, mistrust, and consternation often directed at women and people of color who challenge their social superiors within the existing hierarchy.