Kamala Harris made historical past Saturday as the first Black woman elected as vice president of the United States, shattering boundaries which have saved males — nearly all of them white — entrenched on the highest ranges of American politics for greater than two centuries.
The 56-year-old California senator, additionally the first particular person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, represents the multiculturalism that defines America however is basically absent from Washington’s energy facilities. Her Black id has allowed her to talk in private phrases in a 12 months of reckoning over police brutality and systemic racism. As the highest-ranking woman ever elected in American authorities, her victory provides hope to girls who had been devastated by Hillary Clinton’s defeat 4 years in the past.
Harris has been a rising star in Democratic politics for a lot of the final 20 years, serving as San Francisco’s district legal professional and California’s legal professional common earlier than changing into a U.S. senator. After Harris ended her personal 2020 Democratic presidential marketing campaign, Joe Biden tapped her as his operating mate. They will probably be sworn in as president and vice president on Jan. 20.
Biden’s operating mate choice carried added significance as a result of he would be the oldest president ever inaugurated, at 78, and hasn’t dedicated to looking for a second time period in 2024.
Harris typically framed her candidacy as half of the legacy — typically undervalued — of pioneering Black girls who got here earlier than her, together with educator Mary McLeod Bethune, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate to hunt a significant social gathering’s presidential nomination, in 1972.
“We’re not often taught their stories,” Harris mentioned in August as she accepted her social gathering’s vice presidential nomination. “But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”
That historical past was on Sara Twyman’s thoughts not too long ago as she watched Harris marketing campaign in Las Vegas and wore a sweatshirt that includes the senator’s identify alongside Chisholm.
“It’s high time that a woman gets to the highest levels of our government,” mentioned Twyman, who’s 35 and Black.
Despite the thrill surrounding Harris, she and Biden face steep challenges, together with deepening racial tensions within the U.S. within the wake of a pandemic that has taken a disproportionate toll on individuals of coloration and a sequence of police killings of Black Americans. Harris’ previous work as a prosecutor has prompted skepticism amongst progressives and younger voters who want to her to again sweeping institutional change over incremental reforms in policing, drug coverage and extra.
Jessica Byrd, who leads the Movement for Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project and The Frontline, a multiracial coalition effort to impress voters, mentioned she plans to have interaction within the rigorous organizing work wanted to push Harris and Biden towards extra progressive insurance policies.
“I deeply believe in the power of Black women’s leadership, even when all of our politics don’t align,” Byrd mentioned. “I want us to be committed to the idea that representation is exciting and it’s worthy of celebration and also that we have millions of Black women who deserve a fair shot.”
Harris is the second Black woman elected to the Senate. Her colleague, Sen. Cory Booker, who can be Black, mentioned her very presence makes the establishment “more accessible to more people” and urged she would accomplish the identical with the vice presidency.
Harris was born in 1964 to 2 dad and mom energetic within the civil rights motion. Shyamala Gopalan, from India, and Donald Harris, from Jamaica, met on the University of California, Berkeley, then a hotbed of 1960s activism. They divorced when Harris and her sister had been ladies, and Harris was raised by her late mom, whom she considers an important affect in her life.
Kamala is Sanskrit for “lotus flower,” and Harris gave nods to her Indian heritage all through the marketing campaign, together with with a callout to her “
The mocking of her name by Republicans, including Trump, was just one of the attacks Harris faced. Trump and his allies sought to brand her as radical and a socialist despite her more centrist record, an effort aimed at making people uncomfortable about the prospect of a Black woman in leadership. She was the target of online disinformation laced with racism and sexism about her qualifications to serve as president.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington said Harris’ power comes not just from her life experience but also from the people she already represents. California is the nation’s most populous and one of its most diverse states; nearly 40% of people are Latino and 15% are Asian. In Congress, Harris and Jayapal have teamed up on bills to ensure legal representation for Muslims targeted by Trump’s 2017 travel ban and to extend rights to domestic workers.
“That’s the kind of policy that also happens when you have voices like ours at the table,” mentioned Jayapal, who in 2016 was the first South Asian woman elected to the U.S. House. Harris gained election to the Senate that very same 12 months.
Harris’ mom raised her daughters with the understanding the world would see them as Black girls, Harris has mentioned, and that’s how she describes herself at the moment.
She attended Howard University, one of the nation’s traditionally Black faculties and universities, and pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s first sorority created by and for Black girls. She campaigned frequently at HBCUs and tried to handle the considerations of younger Black women and men longing for robust efforts to dismantle systemic racism.
Her victory might usher extra Black girls and folks of coloration into politics.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who considers Harris a mentor, views Harris’ success via the lens of her personal id as the granddaughter of a sharecropper.
“African Americans are not far removed from slavery and the horrors of racism in this country, and we’re still feeling the impacts of that with how we’re treated and what’s happening around this racial uprising,” she mentioned. Harris’ candidacy “instills a lot of pride and a lot of hope and a lot of excitement in what is possible.”
Harris is married to a Jewish man, Doug Emhoff, whose kids from a earlier marriage name her “Momala.” The pleasure about her candidacy extends to girls throughout races.
Friends Sarah Lane and Kelli Hodge, every with three daughters, introduced all six ladies to a Harris rally in Phoenix within the race’s closing days. “This car is full of little girls who dream big. Go Kamala!” learn an indication taped on the automotive’s trunk.
Lane, a 41-year-old legal professional who’s of Hispanic and Asian heritage, volunteered for Biden and Harris, her first time ever working for a political marketing campaign. Asked why she introduced her daughters, ages 6, 9 and 11, to see Harris, she answered, “I want my girls to see what women can do.”
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