My daughter and other Black and brown girls in this country finally have the opportunity to see themselves as someone who could someday be vice president of the United States.
I received the text alert just before picking up my daughter from school. On Tuesday, California Sen. Kamala Harris was chosen to be presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate.
Not only had Harris made history as the first Black and South Asian American vice-presidential candidate, but the choice also signaled that the Democratic Party finally recognized the work Black women have done in and for the party since gaining the right to vote.
But, for me, the choice of Harris for VP meant so much more.
My daughter and I held hands and skipped to the car—even with my bad knee. I buckled her in and gave her snacks.
“Kai,” I said, smiling, “we have a vice-presidential candidate who looks like us.”
Kai is four, so she didn’t know what I meant. “What, Mommy?”
I pulled up a news article on my cell phone and showed her a picture of Harris.
“She looks like you,” Kai replied excitedly. “Mommy, she looks like you! She looks like me.”
My elation turned to tears when I realized my daughter and other Black and brown girls in this country finally have the opportunity to see themselves as someone who could someday be vice president of the United States.
I cried because I was relieved. In this current social climate ripe with anti-Black racism and rampant sexism, I had worried about who Biden would choose to join him in the fight to take back the White House. Despite the long list of qualified candidates, I wasn’t convinced Biden would actually select a Black woman. Although Black women have given so much to this country in a myriad of ways, I wasn’t sure it would matter.
Part of the experience of being a Black woman is disappointment. Even being the most loyal, dedicated, hard-working person in the room often means not getting the gold. We are overlooked, marginalized, or discarded when something great and game-changing comes along.
As such, I had already made peace with the fact that Biden might not choose a Black woman running mate. I was wrong, and it felt good.
I cried because it was not lost on me this announcement came one week before the Centennial celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Black women, who played an integral part in the women’s suffrage movement, were overlooked and made invisible in many history books. Black women created their own movement, marching right into history alongside white women at the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s protest parade held in March of 1913.
Harris’ nomination is symbolic of that struggle: Black women having to fight for inclusion in a country and a cause that would not exist without our leadership, and being undervalued and disrespected in the process. Yet and still, Harris made her ambition, competency, and qualifications plain and marched right into history.
I cried because Harris now has a second chance to realize her dreams and ambitions after surviving a viciously racist and sexist smear campaign that ended her presidential aspirations.
I cried because I know that same venom will return for Harris in the coming days and weeks, from the same people who loved her when she battled potential Supreme Court justices, rogue Attorneys General and racist colleagues. It’s those same people who will loathe and denigrate her for aspiring to the second highest office in the land.
I cried thinking of Black women like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Black women suffragists like Coralie Franklin Cook and Carlotta “Lottie” Rollin, Shirley Chisolm, Barbara Jordan, Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Carol Moseley Braun, Coretta Scott King, Karen Bass, Maxine Waters, Donna Brazile, Sheila Jackson Lee and others, upon whose shoulders Kamala Harris stands. I thought of all of the hard work they and others have done and continue to do to help make it possible for Harris to get this nomination.
I cried for every woman in general—but Black women in particular—who has been demonized for being too ambitious, for shattering every ceiling put in their way and still being seen as less than or less valuable, yet chose to continue to fight for theirs.
I cried thinking of Kamala’s late mother’s words about being the first to do many things, but making sure she isn’t the last.
I cried on Tuesday after receiving news of Biden’s selection of Harris as his VP because I saw a glimmer of hope in what has been quite possibly the darkest time of my life. The COVID-19 pandemic has sickened more than 5.2 million Americans, including some of my own friends and family, and President Donald Trump and his supporters continue to downplay the severity of the virus.
Whether or not the Biden/Harris ticket wins the general election in November, this moment is a historic win for Black women and our children. Looking at the smile on my Kai’s face in the rearview mirror makes the stressful and precarious road leading to this momentous occasion worth it. It reminds me that fighting the good fight is always worth it.