Harris being elected vice president has invoked a sense of great pride and inspiration for millions of people—many of whom feel unheard and unrepresented.
Kamala Harris just made history: She is now the first Black, Indian American, and woman elected vice president of the United States.
Harris achieved a historic milestone in the country’s 244-year history when she and President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday. After an extended ballot-counting period due to the historic number of mail-in votes, Biden and Harris will be sworn into office in January.
The California senator’s unprecedented win could play a significant part in the future of the country while it attempts to navigate the worsening coronavirus pandemic and address some of the harmful policies implemented by the Trump administration. As vice president, Harris would become president of the Senate and cast tie-breaking votes in favor of Democrats.
Harris—like many candidates—has evolved among her positions over the years. Prior to serving in the Senate, Harris was the attorney general in California, where she was criticized for not being progressive enough. As the state’s top prosecutor, Harris was required to operate within the laws of the state, and that included cracking down on the medical rights of transgender prisoners, sex workers, and marijuana.
Since being elected to the Senate, however, Harris has quickly made a name for herself as one of the more progressive members on Capitol Hill. She backed and co-sponsored legislation including Medicare For All and a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession.
For women of color, being elected as a world leader is no ordinary feat. Harris being elected vice president has invoked a sense of great pride and inspiration for millions of people—many of whom feel unheard and unrepresented.
Tania Muhaimeen Cook is a 50-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant and an attorney based in Pittsburgh. She also is the mother of three children she adopted from her home country. Cook feels a strong sense of connection to Harris since they share similar South Asian backgrounds. The vice president-elect’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was an Indian immigrant who came to the US in 1958 as a biomedical scientist specializing in nutrition and endocrinology.
When news first broke that Biden had picked Harris as his running mate, Cook was excited. “I was a minority in gender, ethnicity, and religion in every educational institution I went to,” Cook told The Keystone. “Growing up, I never thought someone who had my type of background would ever be in the position of national recognition, respect, and leadership that Kamala has.”
The vice president-elect’s father, Donald Harris, is a highly respected economist from Jamaica and taught at Stanford University. To see the daughter of an Indian woman and a Black man, at a time when police brutality and anti-immigration rhetoric are prevalent, has offered many Americans a sense of hope.
“We may not be so ‘United’ right now, and we all know there will be those who are against her, simply because of the color of her skin,” Anice Whatley-Sykes, a Black mother from southwestern Pennsylvania, told The Keystone. “I gave birth to my daughter eight days after the inauguration of Barack Obama. I had great hopes for my daughter’s future. Now, at the age of 11, she is witnessing history herself.”
Harris wants the same future for her grand-niece. Meena Harris, the vice president-elect’s niece, uploaded a video showing a special moment between her aunt and her child. Sen. Harris, awaiting for final vote counts, is heard telling her grand-niece that she can be in the White House too.
“Well, you could be president,” Harris told the girl, who was sitting on her lap. “You could be president but not right now. You have to be over the age of 35.”