Weglinski: Kamala Harris Offers Hope to Women of Color Nationwide


Adam Schultz

Courtesy of Biden for President

By Sonia Weglinski, Opinion Writer


Like many other Americans, my eyes were glued to the TV screen on November 7th as I watched Vice President-elect Kamala Harris deliver her acceptance speech. Chills ran through me as she said, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”

Joe Biden’s defeat of incumbent Donald Trump is already significant, but his choice of Harris for the VP position makes it all the more historic. Only one of her 48 predecessors was a person of color — Charles Curtis, President Hoover’s indigenous VP — and none have been women. Harris, on the other hand, is the daughter of Black and South Asian immigrant parents.

People celebrated Harris’s win around the world, marking this as one more step in the fight to end gender and racial barriers in our country. The current demographic make-up of our political leadership makes the groundbreaking nature of Harris’s election even clearer: White men make up less than a third of the United States population, yet fill 65% of elected positions. Conversely, women make up more than half of the population but are significantly under-represented in politics. This is even truer for women of color, who deal with the compounded effects of sexism and racism — so Harris’s election as the next vice president is undeniably monumental. Her win offers hope to women and people of color who have grown up discouraged in a political world that continues to under-represent them.

I asked my women of color friends about what Kamala Harris’s win meant to them and received some touching responses. “As an Indian woman it was super inspiring to see someone of my ethnicity and culture be elected as vice president,” said Jaden Nandkeshwar, a first-year student. She also spoke about the importance of having a role model figure in her life. “It has encouraged me to prove people who doubt me because of my skin color or gender wrong; it makes me want to work towards my goals even more and become successful. It’s like having someone to look up to.”

High school senior Reina Alburaidi had similar thoughts. “For so long I thought that we had to accept white male political figures trying to put themselves in our shoes, but now I feel like the VP-elect is actually in our shoes and walking in them,” Alburaidi said.

Harris’s win was also personal to me as a woman of color with ambitions for a future political career. For my whole life, I’ve found it difficult to see myself in a role whose previous occupants didn’t look like me or reflect who I am. As political professor Jennifer Piscopo said in Teen Vogue earlier this year, “You cannot be what you cannot see.”

Lack of representation — on screen, in the workplace, in government and everywhere else — isn’t just an issue of life goals and accomplishments, though. Some young people feel it contributes to poor mental health and low self-worth. Similarly, one study found that exposure to misrepresentation of Native Americans as mascots led to “decreased self-esteem, decreased community worth and diminished achievement possibilities” among native students.

Thankfully, Harris’s victory proves that anything is achievable no matter where you come from. But this wasn’t her first time breaking through racial and gender barriers. In 2003, she became the first African American district attorney in San Francisco; in 2010, she was appointed California’s first woman attorney general. She was later sworn into the US Senate as the first Indian and second Black female senator. Kamala Harris’s staggering accomplishments have and will pave the way for how young girls and children of color view themselves and, likewise, how society views them.

I was lucky to attend the vice-presidential debate at Kingsbury Hall earlier this fall — it’s quite surreal that I can say I shared a room with the nation’s first woman of color vice president. It was empowering to watch her carry herself with such ease, despite having to work harder than any person of her predecessors to be taken seriously and treated with respect. I feel insurmountable joy at the privilege of being alive during such progressive times.

Harris’s win offers hope to women and people of color nationwide, setting the stage for a more truly representative government for future generations. No matter your upbringing, political affiliation or personal biases, we can all take something from her victory. To quote her again, “To the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourself in a way that others might not see you… And we will applaud you every step of the way.”


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