From the very first days of his childhood, Kamala Harris has been taught that the path to racial justice is long.
She regularly talked about her predecessors, her parents, immigrants drawn into the civil rights struggle in the United States – and about the ancestors that paved the way.
On the stage in Texas shortly before the election, Harris spoke about her role, but not alone.
“Yes, ma’am, sometimes we can be the only one who looks like we’re walking in that room,” she told a mostly black audience in Fort Worth. “But what we all know is we never walk in those rooms alone ̵1; we’re all in that room together.”
As vice president, Harris will become the first woman and the first woman of color to hold that office, a milestone for a nation in turmoil, struggling with Racial injustice history is exposed, but again, split the election. Ms. Harris, 56, embodies the future of an increasingly racially diverse country, even as the one voted for the highest ticket is a 77-year-old white man.
The fact that she has risen higher in the leadership role of the country than any other woman has underscored the extraordinary journey in her political career. Formerly a San Francisco county attorney, she was elected the first black woman to hold the position of attorney general for California. When she was elected as a US senator in 2016, she became the second black woman in the history of the house.
Almost immediately, she made a name for herself in Washington with her dry procedural style during Senate hearings, killing her opponents in highly profitable moments that were sometimes spread.
However, what sets her apart is her personal biography: As the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, she has sank into the issues of racial justice since Early years in Oakland and Berkeley, Calif. shouts and “sea of people moving” at rallies. She recalls hearing Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to join the national presidential campaign, speaking in 1971 at a black cultural center in Berkeley she frequented when is a young girl. “Talk about strength!” she writes.
After a few years in Montreal, Harris attended Howard University, a black history college and one of the country’s most prestigious schools, then pursued a job as a prosecutor on violence. domestic force and child exploitation. She speaks easily and often about her mother, a breast cancer researcher who passed away in 2009; of her Jewish and white husband, Douglas Emhoff, who will make his own history as the first second gentleman; and her stepchildren, who call her Momala.
It’s a story she tried to tell on the way to run in the Democratic primary with various successes. Beginning her candidacy with homage to Miss Chisholm, Ms. Harris drew a crowd in Oakland whose advisers estimated to be over 20,000, an immediate display of immense strength. ie helping her become a leader in the race. But competing for a nomination against the most diverse candidate field in history, she was unable to gain support and gave up weeks before any votes were cast.
Part of her challenge, especially with the progressive wing of the party she seeks to win, is the difficulty she has encountered in reconciling past California attorney general positions with current people in her your party. She struggled to define her policy agenda, wavering in health care and even her own assault on Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s achievement. In terms of race, perhaps the toughest attack he has faced throughout the main campaign.
“The policy has to be consistent,” Ms. Harris said in an interview with The New York Times in July 2019. “That’s my guiding principle: Is it relevant? Not, ‘Is it a pretty sonnet?’
But it is this lack of ideological rigidity that makes her well-suited for the vice-presidency, a role that requires moderate personal opinion in respecting the top man. As the vice-presidential candidate, Harris has tried to make it clear that she supports Mr. Biden’s positions – even if some differ from those she favored in the primary.
While she struggled to attract black and female voters that she had hoped to connect with her personal story in her first bid, she continued her efforts. teamed up as Mr. Biden’s executive friend to reach out to people of color, some saying they felt represented in national politics for the first time.
Many have witnessed – and startled – persistent racist and sexist attacks from conservatives. President Trump refused to accurately pronounce her name, and after a debate among vice presidents he mocked her as a “monster”.
For some of her supporters, the vitality that Ms. Harris endures is another aspect of her experience that they find trustworthy.
Clara Faulkner, mayor of Forest Hill, Texas, said: “I know what I was thrown as the only African-American on the table,” said Clara Faulkner, mayor of Forest Hill, Texas, said when she waited for Harris to speak in front of an outlying crowd in Fort Worth. “It’s just about seeing God move forcefully.”
While some members of the political establishment expressed outrage at insults, Harris friends know that her pragmatism extends to her understanding of how the political world deals with insults. treat women of color.
Sen. Cory Booker, a colleague and friend of Ms. Harris, who has known her for decades, said in an interview that some of her precaution were a form of self-protection in a world. it is not always acceptable for a black woman to cross a fence.
“She still has this grace in that it almost doesn’t affect her spirits,” Mr. Booker said. “She has endured this throughout her career and she doesn’t give people the right to enter her heart.”
After days of waiting for the results, Democrats rejoiced that victory brought a spotlight in an election that left many of their candidates at a loss, including some famous women.
Representative Barbara Lee, California’s Democrat, who got involved in politics through Chisholm’s presidential campaign, said she always believes she will see the first Black woman in the country. the steps of the White House.
“Here you have an African-American woman, an outstanding South Asian woman, prepared to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of Shirley Chisholm and me and many women of color, ”She said. “This is exciting and ultimately a breakthrough that so many of us have been waiting for. And it doesn’t come easy ”.
The failure of the Democrats has alleviated the celebratory mood, as well as the deep sense of some activists and leaders that for the first time this history left women second – for sure. is closer than ever to the Oval Office, but it’s not.
The end of a presidency inspired a wave of protests from women, many of whom were participating in politics for the first time, that left the “highest, hardest glass ceiling” intact. Democratic primary voters, including a significant number of women, have rallied behind Mr. Biden, avoiding women and people of color entering the race because they believe Mr. Biden will be the one. most likely to beat Mr. Trump. Threatened by Hillary Clinton’s defeat four years ago, many believed the country was not quite ready to elect a female commander-in-chief.
Harris’s presence on the ticket will forever be tied to Mr Biden’s clear promise to choose a female spouse in the election with the acknowledgment that the party’s future may not be the same. he.
Ms. Harris now finds herself the most obvious heir to the White House. Perhaps more than any other vice president in recent memories, she will be scrutinized for her ambitions, the level of attention that is probably inevitable for the number 2 position among the oldest number 1 positions in history.
Mr. Biden understands this, Mr. Booker said: “He’s really taking us to the next election.”
Allies say Harris is acutely aware of her place in history. She views her work with both the civil rights leaders that preceded her – “ancestors”, as she called them – and the generations she hopes to empower.
Representative Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat, a figure emerging on the left wing of the party, said Harris’ rise was a deep South Asian pride, broadening her imagination of how high can they climb in American public life. Jayapal spoke proudly of her connection to the new vice president, writing an article in The Los Angeles Times in August describing their close family history in South India.
“She understands what it means to be the son of an immigrant – to be a person of color seeking racial justice,” she said, pointing to Mrs. Harris’ work on maid rights. family and help Muslim immigrants with lawyers. “You don’t need to explain much to Vice President Harris and I believe she will fight on many issues that are important to our South Asian community.”
The Little Girls’ Association of Black Women in federal politics also sees Harris as a mentor and ally, praising her support for issues like black maternal mortality and Anti-spawning laws often don’t get the attention that might follow a trademark politics.
As Rep. Lauren Underwood was making her first run for Congress, trying to be the first Black woman to win in her mostly white suburban Chicago district, Harris turned to coffee. .
“Not much Black women were at the highest political level in this country. Not many Black women are in very competitive races, “said Ms. Underwood, who became the youngest Black woman ever elected to Congress in 2018.” To have a chance to learn, give advice and just know someone else has done it is something I find extremely valuable.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, a famous Black progressive scholar, hailed Harris as vice president and described her as “well-positioned to withstand the storms that are sure to hit now. when she pierced the glass ceiling.
But between the joys and the sense of empowerment of seeing a woman of color become the nation’s second most elected official, she also warns that the moment that makes history shouldn’t be progressive. Distractions continue to advance their agenda.
“This is still the Biden administration – what Kamala Harris thinks or does must be recognized as part of that administration,” she said. “So we cannot let the pedal on the metal slow down in any way because we are celebrating the fact that we had this groundbreaking moment.”
For others, that moment has come a long time ago.
Opal Lee, 94, paid exploration taxes when he first went to vote, choosing between voting for a Democratic candidate or buying food for his four young children. Decades later, Ms. Lee, a former teacher and activist from Fort Worth, Texas, held President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Despite the health risks from the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Lee has no intention of missing Mr. Biden’s inauguration in Washington this January – to witness Harris.
“I want to be able to tell my great-grandchildren what it feels like to be vice president,” she said. “I have to go.”