Many have discussed what it means to have Kamala Devi Harris elected and inaugurated as Vice President of the United States; the significance of the first woman to hold the office, the first Black woman, the first South Asian woman. As I gave thought to her to assuming this role, I became hopeful. Hopeful that having her as Vice President could mean:
Realizing the impact of Historical Black Colleges and Universities. With the swearing-in of Kamala, HBCU alums have altered and bettered each of the branches of government. An HBCU alum argued Brown vs. Board, then served on the Supreme Court. An HBCU alum is the 3rd highest-ranking official in the United States House of Representatives. Now, an HBCU alum will be the second most powerful person on the planet. May this obliterate the notion that HBCUs provide a subpar education or do not equip their students for the real world. HBCUs do more than prepare their students for the real world, they cultivate them into the leaders of the future.
The end of stigmatizing single mothers of color and instead uplifting their accomplishments and the phenomenal families they raise. Kamala and her sister were raised by a single South Asian mother who completed her Ph.D. while raising two children. Now, her eldest child assumes the second-highest office in the land. The stereotypes, stigmas, and judgments of single women of color raising children should end today.
The end of stigmatizing immigrants and instead uplifting them and their contributions. Kamala is an American-born product of immigrants; who became invaluable American researchers in the fields of cancer and economics. Now their eldest child assumes the second-highest office in the land. The hate, xenophobia, and disrespect of immigrants should end today.
That leaders can and should be bold and innovative. Kamala’s record as a District Attorney (DA), an Attorney General (AG), and a Senator has highs and lows, successes and controversies, but one thing that is clear is that she leads. In each office she assumed, she tried to make things better for all people and specifically for those who are rarely represented in those rooms. That is a model all of our leaders should follow.
It allows children to grow up with the understanding that Black women can and should be in positions of power. Further that boys/men should stand with, and behind, women as they take the lead. Kamala, Joe, and Beau Biden all spoke about Beau’s decision to support Kamala when she, as California AG, made the decision to walk away from negotiations with the largest banks in our nation. These banks offered a settlement that was insulting to the people she represented, so she walked away from the table. Beau Biden and the other Attorneys General support of Kamala’s plan resulted in large payments to the homeowners of all the states represented. That is a lesson our boys and men must embrace – follow women. Allow them to lead.
An end to judging women who choose to focus on careers and marry later, or never. Kamala is a woman who knew what she wanted to do professionally, she set goals and took opportunities, and found love when it came.
A new outlook on what family looks like. Kamala has spoken about how the Oakland community wrapped their arms around she and her sister, providing aunties and uncles to love on them when their biological family members were so far away.
The further destigmatizing of divorce and normalization of blended families. Kamala’s parents divorced. She married a divorced man. She is a proud Momala to the children of her husband’s first marriage. Doug’s first wife has been one of Kamala’s most ardent supporters. I hope we can look to the Harris-Emhoff Family as a model of how families can come together and have varying dynamics.
Affirmations for women who make the family of their choosing as opposed to following the traditional norms. Those who do not want to birth children, instead preferring to be a proud auntie, godmother, big sister, or adopted family member. I hope the concept that women should put ambition on the back burner for a husband and children completely comes to an end.
Hopefully, it proves the idea that both white conservative, traditional AND white feminist standards of femininity and beauty are obsolete. We have spent generations forcing ideals and standards of femininity and beauty on girls of all races that are unhealthy, unattainable, and are rooted in White Supremacy. It is to the betterment of all children, but specifically girls to move on from those ideas.
Embracing the uniqueness of each of us. I often say that at my core is a little Black girl with a name that doesn't meet "mainstream" (read: white) standards. I hope Kamala Devi Harris being elected in close succession after Barack Hussein Obama denotes the end of teasing and discriminating against people, but specifically Black and People of Color with “unique” or “different” names.
With all those thoughts considered, the greatest potential meaning of this historic election is opportunity. We have the opportunity to actually meet this historic moment, in a way that we as a nation failed to do when Barack Obama was elected. The history and the meaning of the election of Barack Obama was given much lip service but instead of engaging truthfully with that moment and allowing it to be a reckoning of our nation’s past we came up with phrases like “post-racial” and “beer summits”. That unwillingness to deal honestly with what it meant to have a Black man as president and have a full conversation on the implications of it, set us on a dangerous trajectory.
Yet, we have the opportunity for a course correction. Kamala Harris’ election represents a chance to purposely look at our nation and learn the lessons of who we are, decide who we want to be and what needs to be done to make us that nation. We can talk all day about the history, the meaning, the importance but if we don’t put forth the effort to understand this moment, the racial implications, the gender implications, the immigration implications – the history of those dynamics – we will fail to create necessary change. We must realize it is not on her to facilitate that change, but rather on all citizens to examine ourselves and our nation. We must address historical failures and outdated norms in order to find the potential and opportunities for all people to realize the full, equitable promise of the United States of America.
There is a natural, righteous, deserved excitement about Kamala Harris being elected and inaugurated. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Whatever it means to you, let’s not waste this opportunity.
By: Ebonee Woods