amala Harris is campaigning like she knows Black History Month is coming up. She announced her presidential bid on Martin Luther King Day. She’s breathlessly recounted how her parents met during the civil-rights movement. She played Tupac at her book signings, danced to Cardi B, and even joked about smoking joints on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. But will these cultural cues be enough to win over black voters?
In the past, the winks of wokeness worked well for national black candidates like Barack Obama. Through his command of popular African-American culture, Obama subtly appealed to black voters without having to directly address anti-racist public policy and alienate moderate white voters. Obama’s black-charm offensive ranged from a soulful croon of Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” to a Denzel Washington–like impersonation of Malcolm X where he told audiences they had been “hoodwinked” and “bamboozled.”