Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence engaged in the first and only debate between the candidates before Election Day on November 3.
Moderator Susan Page began the debate by lying down the ground rules, where she urged for a civil exchange in light of last week’s debate fiasco fueled by Trump. But Harris found herself stripped of time throughout the debate because Pence refused to adhere to the rules which set aside a two-minute answer period after each question, followed by open debate.
Harris and Pence took on questions spanning a wide range of topic areas including, the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, taxes, climate change and the response to the Breonna Taylor case.
But Pence’s interruptions took center stage at the debate highlighting the many ways women are undermined, spoken over and ignored in the work place as well as in their homes. For Black women, Pence’s emboldened display of white male privilege struck a deeper chord when recounting the level of restraint Harris showed, knowing full well that any reaction she made to Pence’s disrespect would unfortunately reflect on her instead of him.
By the first 15 minutes of the debate “IM SPEAKING” trended on Twitter in reaction to Harris’ response during Pence’s first instance of curt mansplaining.
After the first exchange, we all saw our Black mamas, aunties and grandmothers rise up out of Harris, reminding us of childhood instances where we were scolded for speaking out of turn, or even speaking at all.
The fact that there is commentary on her reactions at all show the levels of our collective dysfunction that many women in politics have to wade through.
“If you don’t mind letting me finish we can actually have a conversation, OK?” Harris said during a conversation around taxes while flashing a smile that spoke volumes around her frustration.
“Kamala has to chuckle & politely smile while calling out blatant, real time lies. She has to calmly say ‘that is absolutely not true’ and patiently take his repeated, lengthy interruptions,” activist and educator Brittany Packnett Cunningham wrote on Twitter.
“If we had a dime for every time Black women had to calmly debate a mediocre, unqualified, lying white man not even fit to shine our shoes…” she continued.
Others pointed to the uneven amount of time Pence was allowed to speak before Page strongly chimed in almost an hour into the 90-minute debate.
On the issue of race in America, Page asked Harris and Pence if they felt justice was served in the Breonna Taylor’s case.
While they both claimed to send their condolences to Taylor’s family, Pence said that he stood with the grand jury’s decision, again displaying the rooted disconnect some non-Black Americans have when faced with the disparities shoveled out by the justice system.
The exchange between Harris and Pence became more tense after Pence questioned her voting record on police accountability in the Senate, as well as her prosecutorial record while she served as Attorney General of California.
Page attempted to move on to the final topics of the night, to which Harris firmly advocated that she be allowed more time to respond to Pence’s claims. Harris said that Pence had no position to stand on when he supports a president who refused to condemn white supremacists at the last debate, as well as Trump’s “good people on both sides” statement as tiki-torch wielding white supremacists wrecked havoc in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017
Wednesday’s debate was no “ki,” especially for Harris. American Democracy as we know it is changing in unforeseen ways that will disrupt our future and for the most part it seems that the majority of people in power just don’t give a damn.
And while Harris’ fared less harsher treatment than what happened to Job in the good book, Page and Pence adhered to patriarchy at Wednesday’s debate by continuously moving the goal post.