Just a little over ten years ago, America had strictly only white, and usually old, men holding the highest offices of president and vice president of the United States of America. As we all know, in 2008, history was made by former President Barack Obama when he was elected the 44th president of the United States and, more importantly, the first Black president. It took America over 200 years to get a Black president in office, and still, no vice president up until this point had been anything other than a white male. The obvious question crossed many Americans’ minds: would a woman ever hold the office of vice president or president? After the loss that Hillary Clinton faced in 2016, it seemed as if women would never be taken seriously when it came to running for the highest office. That was until the 2020 election cycle.
Kamala Harris came from an activist background. She grew up in Oakland, California, as the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants. Both Harris’ mother and father were civil rights activists themselves, taking their daughter to protests and rallies at a young age. Harris and her sister, Maya, even planned their own successful protest against a ban that prevented children from being allowed to play in front of their apartment building. Harris went on to attend Howard University and majored in political science and economics, following her undergrad career with law school. After graduating from law school, Harris ended up back where it all started for her, in Oakland.
Harris was passionate about being a lawyer from the very beginning of her career. While her family and friends were unsure of her career choice because the intense scrutiny lawyers often face, Harris knew she wanted to make a major difference in her community, even if it gave her a controversial reputation. Throughout Harris’ legal career, she mainly focused on teenage prostitution issues and helped victims seek justice for their experiences. However, her legal career does have some questionable moments, such as her stance on prison reform, truancy in schools, and marijuana legalization, but she seems to have evolved her opinion to be more liberally aligned on those topics. She eventually took her legal knowledge and experience and ran for California state attorney general, becoming the first Black woman to hold the position. Harris gained national recognition as attorney general, later moving on to become a California state senator.
Harris provides great representation for women who are successful without the nuclear family dynamic we so often see in society. She has been a career-driven woman from the start, but she didn’t let this get in the way of her personal life, though. She met her now-husband Doug Emhoff in 2013 when the two were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. The couple married a year later. While Harris has no biological children, she does have two stepchildren. Her blended family dynamic is an accurate representation of what so many families across the country look like and it is nice to see the second in line to the presidency have a not-so-typical family.
While Harris was serving as a senator for California, she decided to throw her hat in the ring along with dozens of other notable democratic candidates and run for president in the 2020 election. Harris wanted to run and make a difference in our country, especially after four years with another man in office. Many were excited for Harris to run, but many were also hesitant to support her because of her controversial legal record. She came out strong initially, doing well in debates and even nailing now-President Joe Biden on the issue of bussing. However, in December 2019, Harris dropped out of the presidential election, quickly drawing speculation that she would be the vice-presidential pick for whoever became the democratic presidential nominee. Harris often avoided questions asking if she was going to be Biden’s VP pick, but speculation grew. Finally, in the late summer of 2020, Harris was officially announced as Biden’s pick for vice president.
After being formally announced as Biden’s VP, Harris quickly got to work campaigning during the election cycle. She dealt with her conservative colleagues purposely mispronouncing her name at rallies and other microaggressions that women of color have been facing for decades. Republicans were not taking her seriously, and it reminded many of the treatment of Clinton in 2016, but at least then conservatives and Republicans mustered up enough respect to pronounce Clinton’s name correctly.
The vice presidential debate was held in early October 2020 in Salt Lake City, where Harris and former Vice President Mike Pence faced off. Many were excited but nervous to see how the two were going to interact, but Pence is known for being slightly more civilized than his running mate when it comes to debates. The two had a successful debate and many news outlets and commentators crowned Harris as the winner. This debate was pivotal for on-edge voters, swaying them toward the democratic ballot. This is also where Harris coined the now-infamous “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking” slogan, which was a moment that women all over the country could relate to, as being overshadowed and interrupted by men is not a new concept.
Just a month later, after many nerve-wracking days of waiting to see who was going to win the election, Biden and Harris were officially announced president and vice president of the United States of America. The country rejoiced, tears were shed, and many felt like this was the beginning of a new and brighter chapter in American history. A chapter that will focus on getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control, advocate for people of color and the LGBT community, and will hopefully have Americans not refreshing Twitter every minute to see what the president tweeted next. Biden may be the oldest sitting president, but Harris made even bigger history by becoming the first female, the first Black, and the first South Asian vice president. Regardless of political views, having a woman of color holding the second-most powerful office in the land is something that everyone should celebrate. This is a big step toward having a woman one day becoming the next president, and it wouldn’t be possible without Harris and all that she has accomplished.