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The first woman of color to vote VP: NPR

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was the first woman, the first Black and the first Asian American to be elected to the second highest office in the United States.

Noah Berger / AFP via Getty Images

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Noah Berger / AFP via Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was the first woman, the first Black and the first Asian American to be elected to the second highest office in the United States.

Noah Berger / AFP via Getty Images

California Sen. Kamala Harris will become the next vice president of the United States, breaking another racial and gender barrier in U.S. politics, as the end of a fierce presidential race drives voters bitterly divided.

Harris, 56, will make countless of the first people vice president: As the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, she will be the first woman, the first black, the American First Indian and first Asian American to hold the position. She would also be the first graduate student of a black college in history and the first member of a black schoolgirl association to do so.

“It sends a message about the kind of country we are in today,” said Manisha Sinha, a professor of American history at the University of Connecticut. “An inter-racial democracy represents people, men and women, from all over the world. I think that’s a very good thing for American democracy. And for me personally, it is. it gives me a sense of belonging to a country that might not have been there before to some extent. “

Harris asserted his place in history on Friday after a close battle on the White House, President Trump finally misstated victory with millions of votes left and the French team. His reason had pursued action amid a close race. It also closes an election season stalled by a coronavirus pandemic and the nation’s fierce computation of race, justice, and police brutality.

Democrats are looking for a victory that demonstrates Trump’s abandonment and the direction in which he is leading the country. That didn’t happen this year, in a race for razor-thin returns in some key states, and there was no wave of Democracy. But when Harris was promoted to vice president, the party and country marked a major milestone in a harsh political environment.

Still, it was a joyous moment for many women across the country, but most notably for Black female activists, who prompted Joe Biden to name a Black woman as his life partner. Black women are longtime members of the party and a key ingredient for Biden’s Democratic nomination, although activists say black women’s contributions are often overlooked and take it for granted.

“Black women have always been the backbone of this Democratic Party and are sometimes not appreciated for our leadership ability,” said Barbara Lee, congresswoman from Oakland, California, who served as co-chair in Harris’s own presidential election, said she debuted in January 2019. “But I tell you now, Black women are showing that Black women lead the way and we never will. Now going back to the days when candidates only knew our value in getting them elected. Now they’ll see how we managed from the White House. “

Lee said that moment made her think back to campaign work by Shirley Chisholm – the first black woman to pioneer serving in Congress and also the first woman to seek a total nomination. of the Democratic Party in the 1972 election.

“When Kamala was chosen as the vice-presidential candidate, I thought about Shirley Chisholm, and I thought about how time has passed, but how happy she must be,” Lee said.

Glynda Carr, president of Higher Heights, a group dedicated to building political power among Black women, has described the moment as “game-changing”.

“Kamala Harris’ victory will change the way we think about leadership,” she said. “My goddaughters will know the possibilities that exist for their political leadership if they want to pursue it. I am most proud to see my goddaughter, who is In pre-K class, standing in front of that TV, an inch away, looked at Sen. Kamala Harris. “

Harris is also a prominent figure of the immigrant’s offspring as a growing political force in their own right. More than a quarter of adult Americans today are either immigrants or the children of immigrants.

“Her background is what we often celebrate about the United States, that we are immigrants’ pampers, we are a place where anyone can succeed can go to America and find. chance, and her family did it, ”says Chryl Laird, an assistant professor of government and legal studies at Bowdoin College.

Biden’s election of Harris as his running friend earlier this year and her rise as vice president was a nod to the Democratic future. Her position on the ticket could very well pave the way for Harris to become the party’s leader in four or eight years.

The first time Biden and Harris appeared together as the Democrats ticket, Biden nodded to the history Harris has created – and the barriers she could break in the future.

“This morning, across the country, little girls wake up – especially black and brown girls, who often feel looked down on and underestimated in their community. But today, today, perhaps the first time they are seeing themselves in said Biden at their first event as political partners.

“Ain’t no struggle”

Harris himself has sometimes deliberately discussed his pre-emptive status and admits that the experience of being “first person” or “only one” can often accompany battle scars of its own.

“When you break things up, it can be painful. Sometimes you get cut. Sometimes you bleed,” she said, contemplating her own experiences – and those who came before her. that. “Every time will be valuable, but not without struggle.”

During the closing days of the campaign, Harris was the subject of the presidential attack, who called her “the monster” and “the communist”, and assumed it would be an “insult” if one day she becomes the first female president. . Republican Senator David Perdue appeared to deliberately mock Harris’s name at a campaign rally in Georgia.

“If you think about racist gossip and misconceptions about black women or sometimes even unconscious ideas about who Black women are and how they should behave, or the way they should talk, I think she’s the best answer to that, “said Sinha. “In a way, I think it will lead to a bit of the country’s healing after four years of racism and blatant sexism adopted from the highest office in the land.”

Harris’s ascendancy as vice president comes four years after Hillary Clinton’s death in 2016. And it also happened after Harris’s highly-acclaimed campaign for the White House failed to achieve the same goal.

Harris’s campaign began with a flagged rally in Oakland, California, and she was one of the most diverse candidates in history, including many women and people of color, who ran for president. of the Democrats this year. But Harris gave up on December of last year, before voting began, and when she chose Biden, her party chose to elect another white person.

So Harris didn’t break the “tallest, hardest glass ceiling” that Clinton gloomily said when he gave in to the 2008 Democratic primary and the 2016 presidential elections. But it is a strange miracle that a black woman is the daughter of immigrants. Reach this milestone first, in a country where some might expect a white woman to break this barrier.

Clinton struggled with the gender and status that made her own history, eventually giving it a more prominent role in her 2016 campaign than in 2008. As Mirya Holman, principal science professor While both campaigns are historical, Harris’s rise differs from the history of Clinton’s election campaign, explains Tulane University, a scholar of women in politics.

“In the meantime, Kamala has to do whatever she wants. And part of that, I think, is that she’s not at the top of the ticket. However, part is that she is a Black woman and she is. there is in Holman showing how to separate himself from Hillary Clinton’s legacy in ways I don’t think Elizabeth Warren could. the representation of Kamala is a unique, unusual individual and is an interesting part of the campaign. Don’t even talk about history, just talk about how amazing she is today. “

Her mother’s legacy

Many women point to the profound influence Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, had guided Californians to this point. Gopalan, who left India in the 1950s to pursue graduate studies at UC Berkeley, died of cancer in 2009. Her father, Donald Harris, was professor of economics at Stanford University. The two divorced when Harris was a child, and the impact her mother had on Harris – in her life and through her death – was indelible.

“She talked about how her mother told her and her sister, ‘You are black girls,’ said Laird, professor of Bowdoin University. “So even though she is multiracial, her mother is Indian telling her: ‘You are black girls, the world will see you as black girls and you need to understand that you are black girls. ‘ And that’s how she lives her life, understanding how she’s seen, what she’s seen as a black girl. “

Rep. Lee, who has known Harris since the 1980s, recalls meeting her by chance at a political event after Lee’s mother passed away in 2015. Harris, Lee explained, connected with her through the experience. their shared grief.

“It was just a moment that showed how much she cared and she was able to connect and understand women’s pain, the pain of loss and its meaning, because she too went through it. that experience, “Lee said. “I think that bodes well for someone as the vice president of the United States who can connect with people the way she did to me.”

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