While it is true that this year’s election is one of the most polarizing in history, a more important and much more positive part of history has been written. According to the current popular vote, and assumed electoral college votes, Kamala Harris is presumed to be the next Vice President of the United States. No matter what your political preferences or your opinions on Harris, there is no way to deny that this moment is extremely significant for women, people of color, and specifically women of color.
Kamala Harris is an American politician who, from the start of her career, has shattered the glass ceiling and accomplished a lot of “firsts.” Harris was the first woman and the first African-American to be the Attorney General in the state of California. She then went on to be the first African-American woman, and the first South-Asian American senator in the United States. And now, she will be sworn in as the first woman, first African-American, and first South-Asian American Vice President of the United States.
This year, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which we learn officially gave “women” the right to vote. As we all (should) know, this did not give all women the right to vote. There were still barriers to voting for women of color, legal or not, for many years, and there still are today. As written about in my earlier blog post about Cathleen Cahill’s scholarship on suffrage, women of color fought for the right to vote, yet did not receive it at the same time as white women. One hundred years ago, Kamala Harris would not have had the right to vote, let alone get the chance to be on the ticket for the White House. Now, in 2020, she has worked her way to the White House. The significance of this cannot be lost among political debates and disagreements.
This year, people who see Kamala Harris as someone who looks like them or represents them, finally see a physical representation of themselves in one of the highest political positions that someone can hold in America. Even if young black and South-Asian children already dream of running for office and strongly believe in the possibility of their success, being able to see themselves in the Vice Presidency provides visible proof that it is possible. This is not to say her politics or political or personal background represents all of these people. She certainly has pushed for policies that have harmed communities of color, and has received criticism for that. However, the physical representation of someone, who 100 years ago was not allowed to vote, holding the office of the Vice President, is a huge step towards making our government representative of the people of this country.
Overall, we cannot forget the historical importance of Kamala Harris being elected to the Vice Presidency. Whether you love what she has done in her previous elected positions, or hate it, this moment in history must be reflected upon and celebrated, and the significance of it must not be forgotten when moving forward with increasing the representation of women of color in the American political system.
Written by Sophie Ackert ’21, WGRC student worker
November 23, 2020
Cover image courtesy of the New York Times