Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

by Matthew Volfson

News

December 14, 2020

Kamala Harris’s election to the Vice Presidency of the United States is representative of the changing American political system. Harris is the first female, Black, and South Asian American to become vice president. She has broken racial and gender barriers; she has inspired a generation of Americans. Some look to follow in her footsteps: one such girl in Georgia expressed a desire to be like her, to look like her.1

Harris’ victory is part of a long fight. It has taken over a hundred years for a woman to win the vice presidency. Victoria Claflin Woodhull was the first woman to run to become president, back in 1872.2 In her time, most states barred women from voting, with the exception of certain western states, such as Wyoming.3 Voting for women wasn’t legalized across the United States until 1920, when the nineteenth amendment was passed.4 Women continue to face a struggle to gain more power in the United States government — the harmful belief that a woman’s place is in her home still prevails today. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, it was found that 57% of women polled agreed that there are lingering issues regarding gender discrimination in America.5 Harris’ election is viewed by many as a step in the right direction, but it is only one step — there is still much that needs to be changed.

Racial discrimination is still prevalant in America. In another Pew Research Center survey, over 60% of Black Americans polled said they experienced discrimination at some point in their lives.6 Black drivers are 20% more likely to be stopped by police.7 George Floyd’s death is one example of lingering inequality in America — it shows that police discriminate against African Americans. The United Nations even recognized such discrimination against African Americans in a resolution denouncing such actions taken by police.8 Harris’ election brings some hope that the opportunity gap between Black and white Americans will eventually close. 

Representation matters — Harris’ victory is proof or validation for women and people of color (POC) that they too could hold political office or more generally, become leaders. Yet there is also an underlying issue that needs to be addressed: it has taken too long for minorities to be represented in the higher-ups of the American executive branch. Lack of opportunity for POC and women persists in the United States.

But although Harris is a step forward in many ways, the specifics of her political career fall into more of a gray area and inspire mixed feelings at BUA. A BUA student who wished not to be named believes that “[Harris’ victory] will send some South Asian and Black children a great boost of confidence.” Yet at the same time, they say, “[Harris] is, as a whole, somewhat fake, in my opinion.” However, the student does believe that having such a “fake” character is necessary for conducting modern politics in the United States — they think that politicians who have “integrity cannot bring their once-revered intellectual debates and arguments to the attention of the populace,” and that therefore, “[Harris] is [merely] a symptom of the American political facade.” Domestically, the student is skeptical as to whether Kamala could really bring change: “In terms of domestic unification… I also have little hope for her.” Regarding whether Harris’ victory will change racial relations in the United States, the student is again not optimistic, saying that “institutional racism is… a product of culture, not government specifically.” They say, “When the government does something right, it’s rarely because they took initiative, but usually because the voters started shouting really [loudly].” 

Many Americans believe that Harris’ win represents a step forward for women and POC, but some then analyze Harris’ character and history in politics and find themselves dissatisfied. The anonymous student believes that if Harris truly wants to change how America’s society works, she has to “somehow reach the hearts of all Americans and change the culture [of the United States].” But they view doing this as “basically impossible.” Some view Harris’ win as a win for women and POC in America, yet others see Harris as just another cog in America’s political machine, unlikely to change much about it.


1 Kat Stafford and Christine Fernando, “Kamala Harris win inspires women and girls nationwide,” AP News, November 9, 2020,
https://apnews.com/article/kamala-harris-inspires-women-girls-0f1149ee9121285bbf873bcca54e2e61.

2 “Women Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates: A Selected List,” Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics,
https://cawp.rutgers.edu/levels_of_office/women-presidential-and-vice-presidential-candidates-selected-list.

3 “Wyoming and the 19th Amendment,” National Park Service,
https://www.nps.gov/articles/wyoming-women-s-history.htm#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20Wyoming%20was%20the,territory%20the%20right%20to%20vote.

4 “19th Amendment,” History,
https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/19th-amendment-1.

Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Kim Parker, and Renee Stepler, “Wide Partisan Gaps in U.S. Over How Far the Country Has Come on Gender Equality,” Pew Research Center, October 18, 2017, 
https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/10/18/wide-partisan-gaps-in-u-s-over-how-far-the-country-has-come-on-gender-equality/.

Monica Anderson, “For black Americans, experiences of racial discrimination vary by education level, gender,” Pew Research Center, May 2, 2019, 
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/02/for-black-americans-experiences-of-racial-discrimination-vary-by-education-level-gender/.

“Research Shows Black Drivers More Likely to Be Stopped by Police,” New York University,
http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2020/may/black-drivers-more-likely-to-be-stopped-by-police.html.

Marina Riera, “UN Condemns Systemic Racism, Police Violence,” Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2020, 
https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/20/un-condemns-systemic-racism-police-violence-0#.

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