Kamala Harris makes history as first woman and woman of color as Vice President-elect


Kamala (pronounced “Commala”) Harris makes history as the first female, first Black and first South Asian Vice President-elect in the United States. A member of the Democratic Party and a sitting Senator from the State of California, Harris is set to assume office on Jan. 20, 2021, alongside President-elect Joe Biden, having defeated* incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the 2020 presidential election. *[Dec. 8 is the deadline for resolving election disputes at the state level. All state recounts and court contests over presidential election results are to be completed by this date.] During the campaign Harris often spoke of the women who came before her paving the way for this first in U.S. history. Harris also speaks of her parents, immigrants who met during and were drawn into the civil rights struggle in the United States in the 1960’s. Harris was born in Oakland, California in 1964. Her mother immigrated from India and her father from Jamaica. Her parents divorced when she was five and she and her sister, were raised by their mother. Harris’s passion for fighting social injustices was first inspired by her mother, Shyamala, an Indian immigrant, social activist and renowned breast cancer and genetic researcher. Her mother, passed in 2009. Her father is a professor Emeritus of Economics at Stanford University. Harris was raised in a multicultural environment and visited both her parents’ countries of origin as a child. More information about Harris can be found at Harris.Senate.gov as well as joebiden.com. Harris graduated from Howard University, a private, historically black university in Washington, D.C. and from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where she received her law degree. Harris began her legal career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, before being recruited to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and later to the office of the City Attorney of San Francisco. In 2003, she was elected District Attorney of San Francisco. Harris was elected Attorney General of California in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. In 2016 Harris joined the U.S. Senate, after defeating Loretta Sanchez, to become only the second African American woman and the first South Asian American to serve in the Senate. Harris has been married to Doug Emhoff for six years and has two step-children. Harris spent much of her personal and professional life fighting social injustice. Much of Harris’ focus has been on women’s issues, particularly as an advocate for victims of sexual assault. In her acceptance speech Saturday, Harris spoke of her mother and the generations of women of all races who paved the way for this moment. “To the woman most responsible for my presence here today — my mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who is always in our hearts. When she came here from India at the age of 19, maybe she didn’t quite imagine this moment,” Harris said. “But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible.” Harris reflected on the struggles of the women who came before her who helped pave the path for her candidacy and election. “Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision — to see what can be unburdened by what has been — I stand on their shoulders,” Harris said. It is historically fitting for a woman to finally achieve what Harris has in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote in the US. The women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement as well as the achievements, and sometimes defeats, of women in the political arena has helped led to election a woman to the vice presidency. Harris wearing white was a deliberate choice for Saturday’s speech. White attire was worn by women during the suffrage movement and has subsequently been worn by women in the political arena in the US and throughout the world to signal unity on issues affecting women. Harris’ all-white outfit represented solidarity with the long line of women before her in American politics, showing that Harris does not consider herself an exception but rather “part of a continuum – of the slowly bending ‘arc of the moral universe’” as President-elect Biden put it in his own speech, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” Harris said to the crowd in Wilmington, Delaware. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” Harris also thanked all the American voters who participated in this historic election. “…to the American people who make up our beautiful country — thank you for turning out in record numbers to make your voices heard,” Harris said in her acceptance speech. President-elect Biden and Harris stated throughout their campaign and in their acceptance speeches Saturday that their focus will be “to unite our country and heal the soul of our nation.” In a clearly divided country, they seek to represent all Americans during their tenure in office. “And to the American people: No matter who you voted for, I will strive to be a vice president like Joe was to President Obama — loyal, honest and prepared, waking up every day thinking of you and your family.” [Editor’s Note: As of Nov. 9, 2020, President Donald Trump and his campaign have not accepted the outcome of the election and are contesting the results in various states.]