June 28, 2019 - Stephens’ Critique of Harris’ Attack on Biden Centers Protection of White Feelings

In an op-ed for The New York Times, columnist Bret Stephens criticizes Harris’ “scurrilous attack” on Biden on night two of the first Democratic presidential primary debates. He compares Harris to former President Barack Obama, writing that Obama had the ability to “[make] you feel comfortable no matter the color of your skin.” Harris, he argues in contrast, made “white Americans feel racially on trial.” Stephens’ critique centers white voters as those to which candidates must cater, while suggesting that Black candidates (and other candidates with personal experiences of racial discrimination) must choose between overtly addressing racial discrimination and making white voters comfortable enough to win their support. Stephens’ contrast between Obama and Harris might also reflect intersectional bias, in that Harris’ forceful and direct attack on Biden might be seen as especially (and inappropriately) “aggressive” when coming from a Black woman instead of a man.