PUBLISHED: 16:28 EST, 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:45 EST, 11 February 2019
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, who launched her presidential campaign last month, said Monday that she won’t waste time and energy defending herself against claims that she’s not ‘black’ enough to represent African-Americans in the White House.
Harris is the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants and spent her high school years living in Canada. She has ducked the label ‘African-American,’ identifying as ‘black’ – or, simply, as ‘American.’
But her Indian mother, she writes in her autobiography ‘The Truths We Hold,’ always ‘understood very well that she was raising two black daughters. She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.’
Harris said Monday on ‘The Breakfast Club,’ a New York City hip-hop morning radio program, that ‘I’m black and I’m proud of being black. I was born black. I will die black, and I’m not going to make excuses for anybody because they don’t understand.’
Sen. Kamala Harris said Monday morning during a New York City radio interview that she doesn’t have to justify being ‘black’ to anyone, despite being half-Jamaican in a country that regards dark-skinned people as ‘African-Americans’
Donald Harris, the senator’s father, is a Stanford University economics professor
Shyamala Gopalan (center) is Harris’s Indian-born mother; they’re pictured with Harris’s sister Maya (right)
She claimed confusion from journalists and critics about her ethnicity is an effort to tear her down – likening them to early detractors of Barack Obama, ‘powerful voices trying to sow hate and division’ who slighted him because of his biracial heritage.
‘This is the same thing they did to Barack,’ Harris said Monday. ‘This is not new to us, and so I think that we know what they are trying to do.’
‘We need to recognize when we’re being played,” Harris said.
The senator’s immediate family is now multiracial: Her husband of five years, San Francisco attorney Douglas Emhoff, is white. He has two dauthers from a previous marriage.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, another black Democrat, is also in the mix for the party’s 2020 nomination.
Harris created an instant news cycle with her ‘Breakfast Club’ interview when she acknowledged smoking marijuana in college, said she wants it legalized and told the audience that she remembers what it felt like to be high.
‘I inhaled. I did inhale. It was a long time ago, but yes. I just broke news!’ Harris said through a cascade of laughter.
‘You know, I joke about it – half joke – but half my family’s from Jamaica! Are you kidding me?’
Kamala Harris’ parents, Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris, are pictured with her when she was a baby
Harris also became the first 2020 presidential candidate to say she has smoked weed and call for its nationwide legalization
‘It was a joint,’ Harris recalled, saying that she remember what it felt like to be high on the drug.
‘Listen: I think it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy!’ she laughed later in the interview.
Harris said she has long been an advocate for states legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, and now ants ot legalized in general.
‘I think we need to legalize marijuana,’ she said Monday, adding that ‘we need to move it on the schedule so that we can research the impact of weed on a developing brain.’
‘Not all drugs are the same,’ she insisted, while suggesting that criminalizing weed has disproportinately affected black men in America’s criminal justice system.
Bill Clinton famously claimed in 1992 that while he had experimented with weed in college, he ‘didn’t inhale’ it
Barack Obama proudly declared during his first presidential campaign that he had smoked pot in his youth and inhaled because ‘that was the point’; he, like Sen. Harris, is biracial
‘We have incarcerated so many, particularly young men – and young men of color – in a way that we have not for the same level of use, other young men. And we’ve got to deal with that,’ she said.
Recreational marijuana use is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Thirty-three states have legalized medical marijuana. But the drug is still illegal under federal law – turning the pot trade into a volatile cash-only business that can’t use FDIC-insured banks for deposits.
It has been nearly 29 years since presidential candidate Bill Clinton admitted that he had smoked weed but insisted that he ‘didn’t inhale.’
More than a quarter-century later, Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, said he was a regular pot smoker but stopped during the campaign: ‘I want to be completely on top of my game, all cylinders.’
President Donald Trump has softened his 1990s-era view that states should legalize marijuana. He has said he has never taken an illegal drug or drunk alcohol, with the exception of communion wine.
His predecessor Barack Obama was famously open about his drug use, recalling in a memoir his teenage friendships in a group he called ‘The Choom Gang.’
‘I inhaled frequently. That was the point,’ he told NBC News in 2006.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed in 2016 when she ran against Trump that despite surrounding herself with counter-culture figures in her twenties, she has never smoked marijuana.
‘I didn’t do it when I was young,’ she said in a 2014 town hall. ‘I’m not going to start now.’
Other presidnetial hopefuls have admitted toking in the past, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. After letting the cat out of the bag during a 2015 primary debate, he tweeted: ‘Sorry Mom.’
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign told DailyMail.com in 2016 that ‘when he was a teenager, he foolishly experimented with marijuana. It was a mistake, and he’s never tried it since.’
‘Teenagers are often known for their lack of judgment, and Sen. Cruz was no exception,’ the spokesperson said.