Black Woman Senator Publicly Cut Off For Second Time in Two Weeks

California Sen. Kamala Harris was blatantly interrupted during her questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

During former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress last week, a Twitter user jokingly tweeted: “It’s Sen Harris’s turn to question Comey…wonder if she’ll get through questioning without a male colleague telling her to be more polite.” The comment referenced the treatment of Sen. Kamala Harris during a Senate intelligence committee hearing a week prior, when she was interrupted and admonished by Republican colleagues during her questioning of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and told to let him finish his answers.

Harris, a Democrat from California and potential 2020 presidential contender, is the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate. The interruption and her singling out was blatant enough that it did not go unnoticed by news outlets and observers, including fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who immediately following the incident tweeted: “Silencing @SenKamalaHarris for not being ‘courteous’ enough is just unbelievable. Keep fighting, Kamala! #NeverthelessShePersisted”

Warren herself was silenced on the Senate floor in February by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) when attempting to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986 opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions to become a federal judge. Warren’s silencing spurred the Nevertheless She Persisted hashtag.

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Mitch McConnell to Elizabeth Warren: Shut Up, Sit Down

Mitch McConnell to Elizabeth Warren: Shut Up, Sit Down

On the Senate floor, Warren read Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter against Jeff Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship, and Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell had her silenced.

While Harris was not interrupted during the Comey hearing as those on Twitter joked last week, the tweets were somewhat prophetic. During the Senate intelligence committee hearing on Tuesday Harris was again blatantly interrupted by her Republican male colleagues — this time during her questioning of, ironically, Attorney General Sessions.

Harris was pressing Sessions to answer questions over conversations he may or may not have had with President Donald Trump, which Sessions repeatedly refused to answer and then was unable to explain policies he cited that he said entitled him not to respond. As Harris became more adamant in her questioning, she was interrupted by Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was told by committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to “allow the chair to control the hearing.” But Burr proceeded to back him up, telling Harris to “let [Sessions] answer the question.”

It was McCain and Burr who interrupted Harris during the hearing two weeks ago.

Many people watching or hearing Tuesday’s exchange said the behavior toward Harris was not partisan in nature, noting that male Democrats on the committee, who also pressed Sessions to answer the questions, at times aggressively, were not interrupted during their similar line of questioning.

“Sen Harris is called down…again! Why is it that no male Senator is interrupted? This is ridiculous and untenable,” tweeted user @chriscashgavo in response to CNN’s tweet highlighting the interruption.

“The true disgrace on display was the discourteous treatment of Sen. Harris by Republican colleagues. She was only Sen interrupted. Yet again,” added @jivelike.

“GOP Senators having issues with Sen. Harris is becoming something of a trend, and the optics of it are not great.,” tweeted @MatthewNussbaum.

“Two GOP Senators interrupt Sen. Harris’s questioning. They don’t do this to anyone else on the committee,” noted @jeffstrabone.

“What is it about Kamala Harris that makes her the only Senator Republicans interrupt at every hearing?” @matthewamiller, a former Department of Justice and U.S. House and Senate spokesperson, asked his more than 64,000 followers.

“Not sure it’s a big deal that @SenKamalaHarris gets interrupted more than her male colleagues during committee meetings? Here’s some reading,” tweeted Shana Gadarian, associate professor of political psychology and political communication at Syracuse University, who proceeded to share multiple of examples and links to published reports in the following thread:

Gadarian added: “When female voices are included in discussions, policies change, and we tell women that they are valued members of a community.”

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  • It shows they can’t handle an intelligent African American woman or any other woman.

  • We just need to be the “bitches” they like to think we are anyway and over talk them… LMAO use the MOM voice!

    • Charity Dell

      CINDY–I literally had to do that in a class at a county college!
      One older white male student attempted to “shut me down” by yelling
      He kept hollering “put a sock in it!” and “you’re going off on a tangent!”
      while I was telling the professor about psychotropic drugs and how
      they contribute to the childhood obesity rate.

      What infuriated me the most is that HE EXPECTED ME TO COMPLY WITH HIS
      DEMAND THAT I STOP SPEAKING. Mind you, this occurred in an Environmental Science class!
      I had to turn around and bust out in that AUTHORITATIVE BLACK MOTHER VOICE and

      I then wrote a scathing email to the professor and threatened to have him
      hauled before the Dean for his attempt to interfere with my Constitutional
      right to free speech, and his attempt to stop MY education!

      RESULT: He never tried that again.

  • This is somewhat disturbing. As a matter of fact, one of the “political pundits” on Anderson Cooper 360, said that she was “hysterical” (sorry, I don’t remember the names, just the incident and the commentary). After some conversation, one of the women on the panel asked the gentleman why he considered/called Senator Harris hysterical and the gentleman began to explain his “description of Senator Harris” and the tenacity in which she was trying to get Sessions to answer her questions. When asked about a couple male senators who were also extremely aggressive, he didn’t have an answer. So what is it about “Women” that we get these absurd “descriptors” when we are doing the same things that our male counterparts do. We are considered “hysterical or emotional” and they are considered “assertive and matter-of-fact”. It’s amazing that in this 21st century we are still treating women and minorities which such distain. Although we’ve made some progress as a society, this is just one of those things that makes you recognize that we still have a VERY LONG WAY TO GO!

  • Ridiculous. We really are just as intelligent as men, just as entitled to speak…and we really do have a lot of good ideas! Regardless of whether it’s government or business – we should be allowed to speak!

  • She’s the smartest one in the room and there’s a huge gap between her and the next one. Gifted prosecutor who operates from a foundation of being well informed rather than take a position based on ideology. She may lose a battle here and there but she will win the war. Harris is someone the Dem’s should be promoting and supporting for bigger and better opportunities. Highly skilled and experienced.

    • I’ll bet she runs for president in three years. Hopefully, she won’t be saddled with the Pelosi-Schumer millstone by then.

      I am waiting for the first relevant idea from those two – who knows, maybe like the proverbial infinite number of monkeys in front of an infinite number of keyboards, one of them will come up with something useful someday, like one monkey will type King Lear.

      The proverbial monkeys arent as old as Methuselah, however, so I’m not holding my breath.

  • Karl Strandberg

    Please note that Senator Kamala Harris was ‘shut down’ by two white male senators. This is a significant example of the continuing racism and sexism that goes on in our society: unacceptable behavior for two U.S. senators to exhibit.

  • Not a black woman, technically. The staff at DI in their well meaning way, chose not to research because she looks black and has a name that sounds black. Her parents are immigrants from Jamaica and India. She is the first Indian American in Senate. Immigrants, no matter how dark their skin is, do not have the same ‘black’ experience that those of us who are descendants from slavery and Jim Crow. She ID’s as Indian American.
    Still, it doesn’t diminish that she’s bringing hard in the Senate, and faces sexism regularly.

    • “Technically”? Her mom is Asian Indian-American, her dad Jamaican-American. She went to Howard University.

      Here’s what she has to say about herself: “My Indian mother knew she was raising two black daughters,” said Harris, whose birth in 1964 came two weeks before Californians voted to allow racial discrimination in housing. “But that’s not to the exclusion of who I am in terms of my Indian heritage.”

    • Charity Dell

      ERIC–A few observations:

      1. According to the US Census, you are *BLACK* if you have ANY ancestry in
      peoples are BLACK, of Sub-Saharan descent. As the Afro-Jamaican slave populations
      descended from IGBO, AKAN, KOROMANTI, EFIK, FON, YORUBA and MOKO ethnic
      groups–as well as some BANTU ethnic groups–Senator Harris is considered BLACK,
      based upon her Sub-Saharan African ancestry.

      2. Her Asian Indian mother may also have African ancestry, depending upon the particular
      ethnicities in both her maternal and paternal lines. Many Indian ethnic groups descended directly
      from African peoples who migrated to India in ancient times, including many peoples of
      ancient ABYSSINIA (ETHIOPIA) and other EAST AFRICAN traders and colonizers.

      3. Remember that, here in the US of A, the *blackness* of the person is what White America reacts to.
      Although you are correct that her family may not have the exact history of the rest of us African-Americans,
      the fact is, Senator Harris is treated as BLACK and seen as BLACK, regardless of her maternal heritage.
      ANCESTRY. Therefore, Senator Harris will ALWAYS carry the BLACK RACE CARD from cradle to grave!

      4. She clearly IS of East Asian descent, but THAT DID NOT MATTER to the racist senators who could not
      stand to have an BLACK FEMALE LAWYER speak and DARE to QUESTION THEM. They forgot all about
      her EAST ASIAN INDIAN MOTHER, just like they FORGOT about President Obama’s EURO-AMERICAN MOTHER.
      AMONG US.

      • Charity, you last sentence says it all and accurately sums up what’s really going on.

      • Brad Gallagher

        In the opening book of the Bible it says “Out of on man came all nations.” We are all from the same source. It’s impossible for any one of us to claim to be superior to the other.

  • Roger McKechnie

    Senator Harris’s professional demeanor was extraordinary. The sexism she experienced was disgraceful. Time for update of Congressional training in appropriate communication skills.

  • She bends or breaks Senate rules and customs because she’s leaning toward running for president, a variation on what seems to have worked well for campaigner Trump. And she’s brilliant, and should always be heard on everything. “We have to stay woke,” Harris recently told an audience of liberal activists. “Everybody needs to be woke. You can talk about if you’re the wokest or woker, but just stay more woke than less woke. We all have to know our woke matters.”

    • The only Senate rules and customs she breaks are the sexual and racial double standards.

    • You are being obtuse on purpose, much like your heroes who shall remain spineless. Anyone who trolls as much as you definitely knows the context of the slang term “woke”.

      And speaking of brilliant–what about John McCain’s questioning of Comey? Now he should have been interrupted. He might have thanked that person later…

  • I am often the only female and the only African-American attending meetings with my peers. Without hesitation at those meetings, I use what I call my authoritative voice for that very reason. It’s effective and sends a signal (or warning) that I will be heard and I will persistent in getting my points across.

    • I do the same. I use the voice and tone that my Dad used when dealing with “foolishness.”

    • Charity Dell

      EMM and MARY PULLEN–Please see what I wrote Cindy. I had to BUST OUT IN THAT AUTHORITATIVE BLACK MOTHER
      VOICE when a middle-aged white male student attempted to SILENCE ME in an environmental science class. He expected compliance to to his demand. HE DID NOT GET IT. I had to SHOUT HIM DOWN THREE TIMES to get the point across.

      In hindsight, I really should have informed him he was violating my Constitutional rights, including FREEDOM OF
      SPEECH. Too much of this “talking over people” occurs, and it is not confined to the political or educational spheres.
      It is routinely done in meetings with doctors in hospitals, who will often deliberately talk over you when you are
      advocating for your loved one who is DYING. In fact, most people today–including millenials–will attempt to
      overtalk you and you MUST INSIST THAT THEY STOP. “Overtalking” used to be the sign of uneducated, uncultivated
      “lower-class folks” who had not been trained to speak “one at a time.” Now it is too often typical American
      adult behavior; I have discovered that you MUST INSIST THAT THE OVERTALKER STOP. These “overtalkers”
      typically only respond to BLUNT VERBAL FORCE and will not always back down the first time you complain.

  • My question is this..
    Why are her Democratic colleagues stepping up to the plate and shouting downtown the racist requests.

    I am by no means saying that Senater Harris should be treated as a damsel in distress, but it is obvious that she is in the ring being double teamed. It’s no coincidence that it is the same 2 men who have tried to stifle her. Where is her backup? Why is no one calling out these 2 men for what they are doing.

    It scares me to think that she may be being thrown under the bus.

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