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In historic debate, Harris channeled the anger — but refused to be defined by it

If there was any fear that Sen. Kamala Harris would come off looking too aggressive, well, that went out the window. Her debate performance seemed real, not scripted.

Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., makes a point during the vice presidential debate with Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., makes a point during the vice presidential debate with Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Julio Cortez/AP photo

I don’t know what white people hoped to get from a vice presidential debate, but I was watching to see Kamala Harris take down a smug Mike Pence.

After all, many Black and Brown men and women see Pence as the whitest white man in America.

His skin is pale. His demeanor is cold. And every time President Donald Trump openly supports white supremacy, Pence has his back.

Early on, before Harris — the first woman of color nominated for a major party ticket — made her first campaign appearance, Trump put her down as “nasty” and his campaign trotted out the tired “angry black woman” trope.

Harris, the first woman of color to enter this arena, is too polished and too poised for hollering and eye-ball rolling.

But right out the gate, when the first question was about the coronavirus, Harris showed she wasn’t going to be trifled with the way Joe Biden was in his debate with President Trump.

“I’m talking here. I’m talking here,” Harris said when Pence tried to steamroll her.

When asked about a vaccine, Harris candidly said “If Donald Trump told us to take it, I wouldn’t take it.”

If there was any fear that Harris would come off looking too aggressive, well, that went out the window.

Her debate performance seemed real, not scripted.

After all, if anyone has a reason to be angry it is Black women.

It is Black men and women being killed by rogue police officers who shoot first and ask questions later.

It is our men who were locked up for obscenely long stretches of time for selling the same drug that white businessmen are making a fortune on today.

It is our neighborhoods drowning in despair because of discrimination and disinvestment.

And it is our grandparents, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles and other loved ones that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, a pandemic that the nation’s top leader downplayed despite the hundreds of thousands of lost lives.

Coming in the midst of the nation’s racial reckoning, Black women have lots of reasons to be mad as hell.

And why shouldn’t Harris be allowed to bring that anger to the center of a debate over the direction this country is headed under Trump’s phony leadership?

Harris’ body language said, “ah, ah, I’m not taking that,” while Vice President Pence’s interruptions and his attempts to roll over Harris — coming from a debater that has a reputation for control — showed his desperation.

For instance, instead of Pence, the pivot master of pivoting, Harris managed to pivot from climate change to the trade deal.

“They would have lost more jobs than any other administration,” Harris said, pointing out that the economy is a failure of leadership of the Trump administration.

Pence, was left to respond while the moderator struggled to shut him down.

There was pure glee on Harris’ face.

With her sparkling smile and a look of disbelief, Harris didn’t disappoint.

While Pence kept interrupting and disrespecting Harris, she didn’t take the bait.

But she wasn’t cowed by the “angry black woman” stereotype.

Harris didn’t disappoint.

She brought the “anger” because that’s what time it is.