It wasn’t so long ago that presidential candidates were well advised to deny that they ever smoked marijuana, or at least that they ever inhaled. Those days apparently are past, at least for Democratic candidates.
Kamala Harris appeared on a talk radio show called Breakfast Club. Asked if she opposed the legalization of marijuana, Harris answered: “That’s not true.” To support her denial Harris said “I have [smoked pot], and I inhaled — I did inhale.” Harris then added, “Look, I joke about it – half joking – half my family is from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?”
Harris’ “half joke” did not sit well with some Jamaicans. Jamaica Global Online scolded:
So, the perception created by Ms. Harris’ statement is real and has caused some unease amongst Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora. . . .
For some, it is more than mere unease; one Jamaican commenting on social media expressed the concern that ‘soon my job will be singling me out to drug test me since I am from Jamaica. What a stereotype.’ Her concern is not unfounded given the experience of Jamaicans travelling to US ports having sniffer dogs around them in customs halls.
Harris’ father, Donald Harris, is among the uneasy and the unamused. The New York Post reports that Mr. Harris, a professor of economics at Stanford, said:
My dear departed grandmothers. . .as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not, with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics.
Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty.
Donald Harris seems like an interesting character and, judging by the above comments, perhaps a bit of a loose cannon. Maybe we’ll hear more from him as the election season rolls on.
In the meantime, the lesson here is that identity politics always holds the potential to devour those who engage in it, and is never a joking matter.