Harris at Michigan event: There are still 'two systems of justice'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Saying there are still "two systems of justice" in America, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris took part in her first solo event as the Democratic vice presidential nominee Wednesday and focused on Michigan.

For about 10 minutes, Harris answered questions posed by U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, during a virtual gathering to launch a voter engagement program for Black women.

At one point, Harris focused on the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin on Sunday, which has set off protests in that state. She and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke earlier Wednesday to Blake's family, Harris said. Blake's shooting represents "the two systems of justice in America," she added.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del.

"We need to fight ... for the ideal that says all people are supposed to be treated equally, which is still not happening," said Harris, a former attorney general in California.

Harris, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention a week earlier, wasn't physically in Detroit for the event, but the discussion was focused on Michigan's largest city.

During the conversation, she said Russian forces had targeted Black voters with misinformation ahead of the 2016 election and states had put laws in place "designed" to deter Black people from voting.

"Why do you think they don't want us to vote?" Harris asked. "Why are they trying to stop us from voting?"

"They know when we vote things change," she continued. "When we vote, we have the ability through our voice connected with our vote, to say, 'We are present, we matter, we will be seen, we will be heard and you will be accountable to us."

Michigan had its third highest presidential turnout election in 2016 with 4.874 million voters, following the 4.875 million voters in 2004 and 5.039 million in 2008 when Barack Obama first won the state. 

Asked about choosing Detroit for the focus of Wednesday's event, Harris said the city "is a big part of America's history" and is facing "some of the greatest disparities in terms of access to health care, educational opportunities, economic opportunities."

The Democratic candidate noted those problems and highlighted a lack of representation of Black women in the halls of power.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidate for vice president, speaks during a virtual roundtable on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," said Harris, the first Black woman to be nominated by a major party for vice president.

Michigan voters are excited about the leadership of Biden and Harris, said Lawrence, who is Michigan's only African American member of Congress.

"The fact that you chose Detroit, it just energizes us more," the Southfield Democrat said about the Wednesday event.

In 2016, President Donald Trump, the Republican running for re-election this fall, won Michigan by 10,704 votes, his smallest margin of victory nationally.

On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence will campaign for Trump during an in-person event in Traverse City after accepting his nomination Wednesday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Biden announced his pick of Harris for his running mate on Aug. 11. Among other contenders he considered was Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.