Like many Americans, I spent the night of November 3 on the edge of my living room couch. But as Tuesday became Wednesday, Wednesday became Thursday, and the weekend arrived without a decision in the presidential election, I began to wonder if my anxiety would ever be alleviated.
When the race was called on Saturday morning, it was a relief for the arduous process to be over. Finally, social media and news networks could begin covering other important stories again, rather than the never-ending rhetoric of argument and attack.
The Biden-Harris win, though, means more than just a win for democrats. In particular, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris represents groups of people who haven’t reached the nation’s top two seats since 1776. Harris is the first woman, the first woman of color, and the first person of either African American or South Asian descent to hold the seat of Vice President. For the majority of our nation’s history, many of these groups could not even vote in the presidential election — much less run as a candidate.
On the path to the election, there were many moments that struck a chord with women and girls across the country. There were several of these moments that were especially significant to me. During her debate with Vice President Mike Pence, Pence spoke over Harris repeatedly while answering a question. Calmly, Harris stated, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”
Those two words, “I’m speaking,” represented much more than a request to finish her turn. Harris was in a situation that many women and girls experience every day: the assumption that they will wait to speak their opinions, and that their voice is secondary to male voices in the room.
While watching her victory speech, I was struck by a few sentiments that Harris shared which made me excited for the future. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” Harris said. She is marking a new beginning for a country that is becoming increasingly diverse and aware of racial injustice. She is allowing new groups of people, including myself, to look at their leaders and think ”wow — maybe that could be me, someday.” The importance of that representation cannot be understated.
Harris has grown up understanding the struggles of racial injustice. The VP-Elect grew up in Oakland, California as the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father. Harris was a San Francisco district attorney, and became the first Black woman to be elected as California’s attorney general. In 2016, Harris became the second black woman in history to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, is also breaking stereotypes: the “second gentleman” will be the first to have that title. He plans to leave his private law practice in order to support his wife’s career.
Harris is a symbol of an America that is working to heal the wounds of racial injustice that are present almost everywhere in our society. She represents women and girls everywhere whose voices have been suppressed and ignored for far too long. In that same victory speech, one of her thoughts in particular summed up her immense accomplishment: “Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”