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Information evaluation: The hit and missed racial justice moments in the course of the VP debate


Although just one query was particularly framed via a racial justice lens, Harris did often deal with how the Trump administration’s insurance policies have and can have an effect on marginalized communities. Each candidates, nonetheless, missed alternatives to deal with the methods through which most of the points surrounding the election are disproportionately impacting Black and brown individuals at massive. Listed below are a number of locations the place they hit and missed the mark:

On the coronavirus

Throughout the first phase of the talk—and arguably one of many greatest matters of the night time—Harris got here out swinging, calling the Trump administration’s dealing with of the pandemic the biggest failure of any presidential administration.” She used her opening assertion to spotlight the center class, the quantity of people that have needed to file for unemployment, the early on battle to accumulate bathroom paper, and the way important employees have been “handled like sacrificial employees.”

In his response, Pence didn’t waste time with the anti-Asian xenophobic assaults as he deflected blame and defended the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response. “Earlier than there have been greater than 5 instances in america, all individuals who had returned from China, President Donald Trump did what no different American president had ever performed, and that was that he suspended all journey from China—the second-largest economic system on the earth,” Pence mentioned. He then mentioned Biden referred to as the journey restrictions “xenophobic”—{a partially} true assertion, however in reality Biden referred to as the president’s dealing with of the pandemic xenophobic, not the journey restrictions particularly.

Later, and fewer than an hour into the talk, Pence continued with the xenophobic rhetoric, saying “China is responsible for the coronavirus,” and “President Trump isn’t joyful about it.”

Harris, in her response, missed the chance to name out Pence’s feedback as being racist and divisive or commenting on the way it can stoke anti-Asian racism, which has already been heightened because of the coronavirus. Additionally, neither candidate acknowledged how Black and brown persons are being disproportionately impacted by the virus or what they plan to do to deal with the disparity.

On fracking

This was a phase of the talk that induced some frustration amongst environmental activists. Pence, who advocated for fracking by saying it added hundreds of latest jobs, targeted totally on attacking the Biden marketing campaign for supporting the Inexperienced New Deal and promising to ban fracking—each of that are deceptive claims which have been key speaking factors for Republicans at any time when answering any query associated to local weather change.

“Everyone knows that Joe Biden won’t ban fracking. That may be a truth,” Harris responded, whereas defending Biden’s local weather plan. Harris’ feedback have been immediately slammed on Twitter, even by some members of her personal occasion. Throughout the debate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Fracking is unhealthy, really.”

Since then, a video from the 2019 presidential primaries has resurfaced, the place she mentioned, “There isn’t any query I’m in favor of banning fracking.” The video has been broadly shared, together with by the president himself, inflicting some confusion about her stance on the problem.

The poisonous influence of fracking on communities—especially Indigenous communities—is excessive, but it surely wasn’t the main target of the dialogue. In truth, it wasn’t talked about as soon as. The environmental dialogue in the course of the debate confirmed that the combat to finish fracking and the necessity to embody Indigenous communities in that combat will seemingly proceed no matter which president is sworn in come Jan. 20.

On Breonna Taylor

After briefly describing the occasions that led as much as Breonna Taylor’s demise, Web page requested each candidates one brief, direct query: “Within the case of Breonna Taylor, was justice performed?”

Harris answered this query immediately, saying “I don’t consider so,” whereas including that she has had a dialog with Taylor’s mom, Tameka Palmer, and different members of Taylor’s household. Harris additionally used her time within the phase to say George Floyd and the eight minutes and 46 seconds he was pinned beneath a police officer’s knee earlier than dying, saying he was “tortured and killed.” She closed out her time by speaking in regards to the peaceable protests held across the nation over current months, and her involvement in them.

“I consider strongly that initially we’re by no means going to condone violence, however we all the time should combat to realize our beliefs.”

She closed out her time by revealing Biden’s plans to decriminalize marijuana and implement police reforms, comparable to a nationwide registry for cops who break the regulation. “Unhealthy cops are unhealthy for good cops,” she mentioned. Although that assertion introduced some cheers and relief to many Biden supporters on Twitter, it didn’t sit properly with some Black Lives Matter supporters and police abolitionists, who’ve repeatedly mentioned that these branded “good cops” are complicit within the continued violence inflicted on Black and brown communities.

When it was Pence’s flip to remark, the vp didn’t immediately reply the query, as a substitute expressing condolences for the household earlier than shortly pivoting to the “riots and looters” at racial justice protests, invoking racist stereotypes about violence and Black individuals.

“Our coronary heart breaks for the lack of any harmless American life,” he mentioned, seemingly persevering with with the “All Lives Matter” rhetoric by many individuals on the fitting.

“I belief our justice system, a grand jury that refused the proof,” Pence mentioned. “And it truly is outstanding that as a former prosecutor, you’d assume that an empaneled grand jury taking a look at all of the proof obtained it improper.”

In Taylor’s case, nonetheless, there may be cause to doubt the place the grand jury did in truth evaluate all of the proof obtainable, since questions have been raised about whether or not sure info was deliberately withheld.

Pence added that there’s “no excuse” for what occurred to George Floyd, but additionally that  there is no such thing as a excuse for any violence throughout protests.

On “packing the courtroom”

Pence pressed Harris about whether or not a Biden administration would “pack the courtroom,” which might imply including extra justices to the Supreme Court docket to offer liberal justices a bonus over conservatives. Harris declined to reply the query, as a substitute specializing in the impact Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation would have on these searching for an abortion, low-income individuals, and those that depend on Obamacare. She then pivoted to name out the Trump administration for its lack of illustration when appointing judges.

“Let’s speak about packing the courtroom,” Harris mentioned. “Of the 50 individuals who President Trump appointed to the Court docket of Appeals, not one is Black. You need to speak about packing a courtroom? Let’s have that dialogue.”

“I need the file to mirror she by no means answered the query,” Pence responded.

Biden said in July 2019 he wouldn’t be open to increasing the Supreme Court docket “as a result of we’ll dwell to rue that day,” however he and Harris haven’t offered a agency stance for the reason that demise of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, regardless of calls from many progressives to take action.

On Harris’ file

Harris’ file as San Francisco district lawyer and California lawyer common adopted her all through her presidential bid, so it was no shock that Pence challenged her on it throughout Wednesday’s debate. “While you left workplace, African People have been 9 instances extra prone to be prosecuted for minor drug offenses than whites and Hispanics,” Pence mentioned, including that as lawyer common she elevated the disproportionate variety of Black individuals put behind bars. The irony of Pence’s jab—which got here from a member of an administration that prides itself for being “robust on crime”—was obvious.

Harris didn’t particularly reply to Pence’s claims about her record, and as a substitute pivoted to among the extra optimistic features of her work as California lawyer common, comparable to requiring physique cameras for brokers of the state Division of Justice, establishing a reentry program for previously incarcerated individuals, and implicit bias coaching.


Wednesday night time was a historic occasion as Harris took the talk stage as the primary Black and Indian vice presidential candidate. However with heightened racial tensions across the nation, racial inequality might have been a a lot larger dialogue. On the very least, there have been alternatives to acknowledge the methods through which the Trump administration’s actions and inactions have immediately harmed people of color.

There have been no questions by the moderator associated to Trump’s refusal to sentence white supremacy in the course of the first presidential debate, the place he referred to as on white nationalist teams just like the Proud Boys to “stand again and stand by.” The vice presidential debate might have been a chance for Pence to sentence white supremacy, be vocal about his personal racial justice stance, and even make clear the president’s feedback. As an alternative, Trump’s feedback went unmentioned, and Pence’s personal feedback mirrored well-worn racist canine whistles about Black protesters and anti-Chinese language xenophobia.

There was additionally no dialogue about immigration—which was arguably a significant factor in Trump’s 2016 victory—or the Trump administration’s incendiary policies which have put the well being, lives, and livelihoods of documented and undocumented individuals in danger. Pence didn’t need to defend Trump’s household separation coverage or clarify to Trump base why the America-Mexico border hasn’t but been constructed, and Harris didn’t get the chance to current the Biden administration’s immigration plan.

Pence additionally blatantly disregarded the beforehand agreed upon time restrictions, speaking over Harris on a number of events. Web page additionally made a minimal effort to stop the interruptions from taking place, failing to leap in throughout a second within the debate the place Pence fully took over Harris’ allotted talking time. Harris, nonetheless, needed to tread a razor-thin line each as a girl and an individual of coloration, attempting to come back throughout as assertive and approachable with out being perceived because the “offended Black girl” stereotype.

The vice presidential debate didn’t supply any surprising moments, and the dialogue seemingly didn’t sway voters who have been already acquainted with Pence’s and Harris’ stances on key points. It did, nonetheless, illuminate the place every candidate ranks racial fairness and equality on their listing of priorities.

Carolyn Copeland is a duplicate editor and workers reporter for Prism. She covers racial justice and tradition. Comply with her on Twitter @Carolyn_Copes.

Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit information outlet that facilities the individuals, locations and points presently underreported by our nationwide media. By means of our authentic reporting, evaluation, and commentary, we problem dominant, poisonous narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to construct a full and correct file of what’s taking place in our democracy. Comply with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.