We now know who is going to be on the ballot in the presidential election this fall. With Joe Biden’s announcement that Sen. Kamala Harris will be his running mate the tickets for both parties are complete. Senator Harris is a history-making choice, the first Black woman to be nominated for the nation’s second-highest office. I have been moved the last two days by the response to that choice, particularly among Black women and girls, who suddenly have new worlds and possibilities opened to them that once were unimaginable.
Any time one of these barriers of race or gender or creed or orientation falls we move a little bit closer to the kingdom of God, a place where all people are truly seen as created in God’s image and worthy of dignity and respect. Like the nominations of Geraldine Ferraro, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, the choice of Senator Harris expands our imagination of what candidates for the highest offices in the country look like.
We see the same thing in the church. The first women were ordained priests in the Episcopal Church in 1974. It was 1986 when I first saw a woman celebrate the Eucharist (as always, the South was slow to embrace change). I heard the familiar words in a new way that day, and my ideas and understanding of God were expanded.
As moved as I am about having Senator Harris on the ballot this fall, I’m also concerned at the tenor of rhetoric already being aimed at her. Breaking a barrier does not mean uniform change in the culture. Having a Black president did not mean the end of racism, Having a female presiding bishop, the highest office in our denomination, did not end sexism in the Episcopal Church. In fact, the elevation of someone “different” to new offices can increase racism and misogyny as those who have held positions of privilege are threatened.
The truth is that racism and misogyny run deep in this country, including at the highest levels of government and power. Senator Harris will be the targets of attacks because of her gender and her race. It has already begun. Within minutes after the announcement she was called a “nasty” woman. I’ve heard her labeled ambitious (an insult for women, but never for men) and angry, both terms used to dismiss women who upset the status quo. I’ve also already heard crude comments made about her relationships and how she “slept her way into power.” This is just the beginning. I am sure it will get meaner and cruder as the election draws nearer.
There is no place for that kind of language and discourse in the kingdom of God. Racism and misogyny in all its forms is profoundly unChristian, and those who engage in it are not following Christ. In a healthy society, political debate engages ideas and policies. It deals in truth, not slanders and lies. As Christians it is our responsibility to remember that, no matter what our political affiliation may be.