Sen. Kamala Harris responds to pointed question on race in America

Sen. Kamala Harris said Thursday that Americans have not had “honest discussions about race” and that “it is in our collective best interest” to have those conversations in response to a question about “racial divides” in the United States.

Speaking at a campaign event in Hemingway, South Carolina, the Democratic presidential candidate was asked a pointed question about race in America by Meg Oliver, a voter who identified herself as being raised as “a daughter of the south” and said she has personal connections to people with racist views — including her father who she believes “was most likely in the KKK.”

“I am embarrassed at what I see with a lot of the southerners and a lot of the members of our Congress,” Oliver said. “I’m wondering what you can do… to heal the racial divides that (President) Donald Trump has emboldened and what we as white people who don’t believe in that and don’t support that — what can we do to help offset the obvious flashpoints of racial divide in this country.”

“For too long, frankly in our country, for too long we have not had these honest discussions about race. We’ve just not. You can look at textbooks in public schools that have erased so much of the history, the awful shameful history on race in this country,” said Harris, who identifies as black.

She cited the recent passage of an anti-lynching bill in the Senate that she co-authored and a speech she gave about the legislation as an example of how she is contributing to the conversations about race that Oliver asked about.

Harris went on to say that in order to move the “uncomfortable” conversation about race forward, “we have to speak truth to what happened.”

“And we have to do it understanding — and to the point of the spirit of you raising it, and the way you did — it is in our collective best interest to speak these truths, to acknowledge what happened, to acknowledge then the vestiges of it that remain because they do. To get to a place where we can heal and we can be better. And I believe that is going to have to be about leadership — that one is to your point — not stoking the racism, the anti-Semitism, the white supremacy that we have been seeing because that is happening,” she said.

“I know we are better than this, I believe that. But we will not achieve our true strength as a country if we fail to acknowledge the truth and speak it and recognize what must be done to address it,” Harris said.