Column: Woman of color in the White House

Column: Woman of color in the White House

As a woman of color in America who has had her fair share of experiences with racial injustice, I felt overwhelmed with joy listening to Kamala Harris’s historic acceptance speech as the vice president of the United States of America.

Listening to her victory speech I fought tears as she explained how she was grateful for all of the women who paved the way for her to be there in that moment and is inspiring, not only for women of color, but for all women in America. 

Also, she notably wore a white suit, which is said by analysts at CNN, NBC and ABC to be a nod to suffragettes 100 years after women’s constitutional right to vote was guaranteed.

Umoja counselor Kalynda McLean wrote in an email that seeing women of color in positions of power is a reminder that women are capable, especially those women, and if afforded the opportunity could be of great benefit.

“It is incredibly important for women of color to be in positions of power and recognized for that achievement because historically women of color have been marginalized, disenfranchised, dissuaded, and discounted,” McLean wrote. “In many instances, the ascension to a position of power (for women of color) has meant sacrifice that others are not required to make.”

Professor of history Citlali L Sosa-Riddell wrote in an email that she hopes that Harris will give people a sense of the possibilities of the future after feeling the weight of police brutality and being hit hard by COVID-19.

“I personally feel that seeing Kamala Harris as a VP feels like a win because I’ve had my name mangled—perhaps not as deliberately—and have been treated as an outsider,” Sosa-Riddell wrote. “It feels like women of color are being taken seriously for their political work of turning out voters and for being able to argue effectively for a new narrative about the nation. It will feel like we have a voice in the next United States and will hopefully activate more political engagement after decades of political disengagement and hopelessness.”

Professor of history Sheryl L. Nomelli wrote in a email that the kind of activism we have seen this year with people taking to the streets in protest for racial justice has impacted American’s desire for positive change in our country.

“I can’t express my full range of emotions with the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  It has restored my faith in this country even though it was/is a close election,” Nomelli wrote. “They have sent a message by electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  Kamala has just shattered the glass ceiling to pieces.”

Nomelli added that having the first woman, as well as a woman of color, as America’s first vice president is an “amazing” symbol to women and men everywhere that women can achieve and be anything. 

Professor of history Christopher G Strickland wrote in an email that on this historic day he believes it will inspire many young Black women for today and beyond.

“Many African American women have contributed immensely to American life and politics in various ways, indirectly and directly—women such as Elizabeth Freeman, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Coretta Scott King,” Strickland wrote. “And many Black women throughout the generations who dedicated their lives to marching, voting, and teaching the next generations to engage themselves to greatness to create change.”

Strickland explained that from Charlotta Bass to Shirley Chisholm, Harris is following in the footsteps of these groundbreaking women. 

Bass was the first Black woman to run for vice president in 1952 and a pioneering journalist and Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress in 1968 and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination of the United States from one of the two major political parties in 1972. 

Harris is the first Black woman and woman of color (her mother was Indian-American and her father is Jamaican-American), to become Vice President of the United States. 

Although there is much work that still needs to be done, Americans should bask in this moment because it is a monumental addition to the history books. It’s a new day in America and it’s full of possibilities. 

She is the first but not the last.