Kamala Harris erupted from the other nine Democrats on stage during the Second Democratic President's primary debate on Thursday, calling for his personal experiences of racist injustice as a black woman.
"As the only black person at this stage, I wanted to talk about the issue of race," Harris said.
That was when she was attacked on Twitter by a conservative provocator for not being an "American variety". It's a game straight out of the racist birther playbook that was used against Barack Obama as he ran for president a decade earlier. This time, however, these kinds of claims must not circulate for years on blurred right forums before reaching an ordinary audience. On Thursday night, spammers and even one of President Trump's sons spread to millions of people within hours.
Harris, 54, was born in Oakland, California to a father from Jamaica and a mother from India. She talked about her experience growing up in the debate and remembered a story about neighbors who would not let their children play with Harris and her sister because of their skin tone.
The attacks on Harriss's background started on Thursday when Ali Alexander tweeted she is not an "American variety".
"She's half Indian and half Jamaican," wrote Alexander. "I'm so sick of people robbing American blacks (like myself) of our story. It's disgusting. Now you're using it for debate time at #DemDebate2? This is my people not her people. Freaking disgusting." [1
"Is it true?" Wrote Trump Jr. "Wow."
Trump Jr., who later deleted his tweet, was not the only one who used Alexander's tweet to make Harris's ethnicity.
Harris's team condemned the comment as racist. "This is the same type of racist attack his father used to attack Barack Obama. It didn't work and it doesn't work now," a Harris spokesman told The Daily Beast.
Several Twitter users copied and pasted Alexander's message properly and tweeted it as their own, according to screenshots posted by author Caroline Orr. Some of these accounts, like "@ prebs_73," have copied the pasted other popular right-wing tweets verbatim. Other accounts with right-handers in their usernames and biographies were accused and accused Harris of not being black.
"Ummmmm @KamalaHarris you are not black. You are Indian and Jamaican," wrote a Twitter user with a cross emoji, the word "CONSERVATIVE", a red "X" emoji (a right Twitter trope) and three stars (a QAnon symbol) in their username. 19659002] At least one known network of bot accounts was found that spread Alexander's original tweet, BuzzFeed reported.
" The conversation is, no matter who we are, our sorrow should be challenged, for what we look like is not" Shireen Mitchell, Stop Online Violence Against Women
Shireen Mitchell, a Technician and Founder of the Stop Online Violence Against Women group, said the accusation against Harris plays in a long-standing debate that has been used to drive a white nationalist wedge through black communities.
"We have and have always been for centuries in this country with this little fight about who gets opportunities like black people, and who doesn't? t, "said mitchell." It includes colorism; that includes the distinction of where the ship actually landed It includes, if you are (and I am) a descendant of a slave born here as opposed to a descendant of slavery from another country. These distinctions, from my perspective, make no sense at all. But it makes it possible for white nationalist and nativist talks to be planted in my community. "
A Trump Jr. spokesman said that Trump originally sent the tweet because he had not known that Harris's mother was Indian.
" Its tweet was simply him if it were true that Kamala Harris was semi-Indian because It wasn't something he'd ever heard before, and when he saw that people were losing their intent with his tweet, he quickly deleted it, "spokesman said.
Alexander, describing himself as black and Arabic, said that Harris has an "unpleasant, false story of black people."
"I point out that Kamala Harris has a mother from India, and a father from Jamaica went viral last night because many people assume she is from black American slaves," he said in a statement to The Daily Beast. "She does not. I corrected Kamala Harris last night because she stole debate time provided she is African American, as she is actually a biracial Indian-Jamaican, a first generation American. "
This is not the first time pro-Trump activists have tried to undermine Harris and her authority to talk about race issues based on her parents.
In January, right-wing Jacob Wohl, an associate of Alexander, argued Twitter that Harris was not entitled to be president because her parents were not from the United States, even though she was born in California, Wohl's claims were circulated by other right-wingers online, in an attempt to create a birter's question about whether Harris could legitimately lead the president.
Mitchell, who has been monitoring harassment campaigns against black women since 2013, said Harris is facing a new digital permutation of birther conspiracy theory attacking President Trump charged against Obama.
"It's a second iteration of birtherism: "where were you born?" she was born in oakland! "Mitchell said he referred to the conspiracy theory that wrongly accused Obama to be born outside the United States. "The conversation is, no matter who we are, our sorrow should be challenged because what we look like is not" American enough. ""
Mitchell distinguishes between two types of fraudulent accounts that attempt to discredit black people online. Botnets, an automated network of counterfeit accounts, often tweet the same message. The technique allows a message to spread far and quickly, with little effort. Some of the copy-glue accounts that share Alexander's message seem to be driven by real people.
Mitchell also monitors a trend called "marionette" where a person will fake as a black person online to push ideas that many black people would otherwise find offensive.
Recent examples of puppetry include a troll that stole a black transgender activist's image as a Trump supporter, and Russian-round accounts as "Blacktivist" who mimicked the black Americans to swing black voters away from Hillary Clinton in 2016.  "I actually thought the botnet was going to die, because I felt like more marionettes were happening … After this debate, I saw several botnets again, as opposed to just puppetry."
Fraudulent accounts are often dependent on stereotypes that are hoping to seek a collection of counterfeit accounts, Mitchell said.
"The" black enough "line has been a stereotypical frame," she said.
"It has always been a systemic narrative. It is just being expanded in this national debate"