Kamala Harris has broken another glass ceiling becoming the first Black and South Asian woman to be elected as vice president of the United States.
Harris has been rising in politics, becoming a beacon of light for women and multicultural Americans.
Harris has served as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general. Harris became a senator in California in 2016, becoming the second Black woman and first Asian American to serve on the U.S. Senate. After ending her bid for the 2020 presidential election, Harris joined Biden’s ticket as his vice president.
The Biden-Harris administration plans to take on systemic racism, protect the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and combat COVID-19. Harris has used her personal experience to speak out against police brutality and systemic racism in America.
“This is a historic moment, one I think a lot of people that men and women, but particularly women, have been waiting for for a very long time,” said Kelly Winfrey, assistant professor of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
This year marks the 100th-year anniversary of women’s right to vote, making it a fitting year for women to be in the White House.
“We’re at that hundred-year anniversary, and we have our first woman vice president, who also happens to be a woman of color,” Winfrey said.
Ann Lent, a junior in political science and member of Iowa State College Democrats, said when she first found out Biden and Harris won, she cried because she realized there is a woman vice president.
“We have come so close so many different times to having a woman be in that kind of position, and we finally achieved it,” Lent said.
Harris was born in 1964 amid the Civil Rights Movement. Her parents, Shyamala Gopalan from India and Donald Harris from Jamaica, were both active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Harris attended Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington. While at Howard, Harris joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, one of the nine sororities and fraternities create the Divine Nine which she attributes helped she said shaped her political career.
Harris success has helped provide people of color representation in high position of power in politics.
“Seeing someone who looks like you do something that you want to do is so powerful and I think for her being in that position, it is providing that representation to say this is something women can do, this is something a person of color can do,” said Nina Gregory, a senior in elementary education and a member of the divine nine organization.
Gregory said she believes being apart of the Divine Nine helped Harris because the organization emphasises sisterhood and brotherhood, along with being surrounded by like-minded people that want to see you succeed.
In 2016 when Hillary Clinton lost the presidency, it was a disappointing time for women, Winfrey said.
“Given Hillary Clinton’s qualifications, it seems like … if she couldn’t do it with all her qualifications, then who would be able to?” Winfrey said.
There still has not been a female president, but this is certainly progress, Winfrey said.
“Hopefully for those who do have gender bias about women’s leadership ability, [they] will be able to better picture a woman as the president when we have one as the vice president,” Winfrey said.
Although Harris has made history, there are still many barriers for women, Winfrey said. There is still sexism being used to attack Harris, especially on social media.
“There have been memes about Harris where she is sexualized, calling her ‘Joe and the Hoe,’ and there have been social media stories that are false going around about her relationships with men and power,” Winfrey said.
Many Republican officials and voters have mispronounced Harris’ name, and even President Donald Trump repeatedly mispronounced her name at a rally.
“It is belittling her identity — by calling someone the wrong name, you’re not acknowledging who they are,” Winfrey said.
Trump has also made other remarks about Harris after Biden announced her as his running mate.
“President Trump has said other things about her, called her a monster and made fun of her laugh … those sort of sexist attacks are attempts to discredit her,” Winfrey said.
Despite having dealt with sexism, Harris has become a role model for women and those wanting to get into politics. Winfrey said by women having a role model in a high-level position, like Harris, it gives other women the opportunity to see themselves potentially in that position in the future.
Winfrey also said women are more likely to follow politics and be engaged in policy politics when they have a role model.
Being a political science major, Lent said this is very monumental for her because it shows women can be in politics and raise to high levels of office, making it easier for women in future generations to follow.
“When you have someone that looks like you or that has elements of your identity in those positions, it's empowering,” Winfrey said.