Updated: Oct 7, 2020

By: Jared Birdsong / Barack O'Baggins


Representation. It is the reason we are here? In this space. Kamala Harris is not a comic book writer, sci-fi writer, horror, or fantasy writer. She is not an actress or character of interest in any of those genres. She does not write the story lines that our digital avatars follow in some of our favorite video games. But there is a reason why her presence as the vice-presidential nominee on Joe Bidens’ campaign for President of the United States of America should matter for geeks and nerds.

Real life informs our personal story, and the stories we tell the world about our lives and the lives of people like us. The advancements and setbacks of our sisters and brothers, in reality, allows us to imagine the next step. To go “One Step Beyond” what we had previously believed possible for people like us; who live like us, that eat like us, that love like us, that live in our neighborhoods, raise their kids like us, pray like us, and arrive here like us. The component parts of her identity, accompanied by the struggles and affections each of those parts bring, is what allows sci-fi, comic book, fantasy, and horror writers to ground their characters in narratives that go beyond the spectacle of the aforementioned genres and become more relatable allegories for their consumers’.

Indeed, no race, no ethnicity, particular religious group, or sexually oriented demographic is a voting monolith. But representation (as I hope to define it) should come with some nominal acquiesce to the realities faced by underrepresented groups and the deleterious effects of a social and political orthodoxy that has in most cases, done very little to welcome their arrival, and even less to support their participation in the "American experiment.”

In other words; not just any brown face will do! We can’t simply throw Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson on a presidential ticket, or place them in the White House, and assume that our internal community culture will find any empathy, or expect that our usual external political anxieties will be considered.

Kamala Harris was not my first choice to be the Democratic nominee. She was not my second, third, or fourth choice. For me, she lagged behind Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Andrew Yang. If I were Biden, I likely would have looked to Karen Bass, Elizabeth Warren, or Tammy Duckworth to be my VP before turning to Harris. However, though she was not my first pick, I do not remotely mistake her approach to politics for those of Haley, Cruz, or Carson. And I must admit that the social, political, and governing benefits Harris brings are legit.

Harris may not be perfectly progressive by my standards, but she is unquestionably competent and qualified. Though she lacks the ability to articulate progressive values like Warren, I believe that she will work to make them happen. Unlike Cruz, Haley, and Carson, Harris has not assumed that money, education, and the right contacts’ can fully extricate one from the entrenched disenfranchisement and violence too many communities are inundated with. Especially women of color.

Black women have spent the chronological age of the United States of America, betrayed. Betrayed by the creed they live under. Betrayed by media representations of them. Betrayed by their politicians. And too often, betrayed by black men. Having raised two girls in Oakland California as a dark skinned East Indian woman, and an immigrant, I am sure Harris’ mother has some empathy and insight to those adversities.

But the most important role Harris serves in is her presence. What she represents. Whom she represents. It is what we are allowed to see in her. It is the hope for the future her presence gives to our daughters. We can look at the specific elements of her ethnic identity as an Asian woman, an African woman, a daughter of immigrants, or even as a woman in an interracial marriage, and ask only what she means to those groups. But we would be under selling the possibilities. The possibilities for Jewish girls, young Latinas, Gay girls, Muslim girls, and so on, to see her as more than a model for success, but as an emissary for racial and gender reconciliation in our country.

In episode 8 of the “Hunters” series on Amazon, a young black girl asked her mother, “are you a superhero.” I started to think about what it means to be super not as an expression of the amount of force or control one can bring against the bad guys, but as a matter of will and perseverance in the face of unyielding animus . The amount of sexism, racism, ridicule, humiliation, and violence a woman will sustain in order to feed and protect their families and communities. She answered, “I am a black woman in America, superheroes ain’t got nothing on me.”

@mutantorminority podcast! #superheroesofcolor#mutantorminority#podcastorsofjusticeandnerdshit

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