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WOMEN MAKING HISTORY: Kamala Harris

Karthika S Nair | Nov 09 2020
Image credits: BP creatives

First Woman Vice-President Elect: Kamala Harris Created US History

"Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the black women who are often too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy," - Kamala Harris

Following the footsteps of many brave women who laid the way, pushing the boundaries of sexist and racial expectations, and eventually breaking a major glass ceiling, Senator Kamala Harris made history as the first woman vice-president elect of the United States. 

She was chosen by Democrat nominee Joe Biden as his running after he was confirmed as the major party nominee for the 2020 Presidential elections. 

In an interview with '60 Minutes', Biden said that he chose Harris as his running mate because of her values, smartness, principles, strong spine, and due to her experiences. 

Kamala Harris's victory with Biden leads to celebrations amongst African Americans and Indian Americans. Her village in Thulasendrapuram in Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu celebrated with rangolis. 

Read: Susan B. Anthony: Women's Rights Activist Who Dared  

Early Life 

Kamala Harris was born to a South Indian named Shyamala Gopalan and  Donald J. Harris who is a British-Jamaican. 

Her mother came to the United States as a 19-year-old graduate student in nutrition and endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley, and her father arrived in the U.S. from British Jamaica in 1961 for graduate study at UC Berkeley.

Both her parents have PhDs; Gopalan received her PhD in 1964 and Harris received a PhD in economics in 1966.

Kamala grew up in the spot in California with a significant black population. 

Kamala said that she was particularly impressed by her grandfather P. V. Gopalan, a retired Indian civil servant, and his progressive views on democracy and feminism. 

After her parents divorced, Kamala said that she grew up with her mother and visited her father in Palo Alto. She did face racism during childhood because other kids in Palo Alto did not play with them because they were black. 

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Young Kamala Harris

Social Justice Awakening

Kamala Harris has a friend named Wanda Kagan during high school. Kagan was molested by her stepfather and confided in Harris for help. Harris used to make her live with her for protection. 

The whole process of helping Kagan cope and counter the exploitation helped Kamala develop the necessity to incline to social justice. She is, therefore, committed to helping women and children. 

Education

Kamala Harris attended Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C and eventually joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She graduated with a degree in political science and economics. 

She later attended the law school at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law through its Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP) and served as president of its chapter of the Black Law Students Association at UC Hastings. 

In 1989, she graduated with a Juris Doctor and was admitted to the California Bar in June next year.

Career As A Lawyer

She was hired as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California, in 1990 and later, in 1998,  San Francisco district attorney Terence Hallinan recruited Harris as an assistant district attorney (ADA). 

She went on to become the chief of the Career Criminal Division where she prosecuted homicide, burglary, robbery, and rape cases.

She broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first person of colour to be elected as district attorney of San Francisco. 

At the time, she was the least known among the three contenders. Instead, Kamala put forward her strong liberal views. She was strongly against the death penalty. She attacked Hallinan, who she had worked with, for not doing enough to stop gun violence and willingness to accept plea bargains in domestic violence cases. This helped her campaign well.

In 2011, Kamala Harris made another history as the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian American to hold the office of Attorney General in the state of California. She was re-elected again in 2014. 

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Kamala Harris as Senator

Political Career

She announced her intention to run for California Senate in 2015. She was endorsed by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. In the November 2016 election, Kamala Harris defeated Loretta Sanchez to become the senator. 

At the time, when Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the president of the United States, Kamala Harris promised to protect immigrants from the policies of the Trump administration and announced her intention to remain Attorney General.

She condemned Executive Order 13769, barring citizens from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. She called for the resignation of Senator Al Franken over sexual misconduct allegations. After Al Franken resigned, Kamala Harris was appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She made it to the news for questioning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook's misuse of users' data and whistleblower Christopher Wylie on reports that Cambridge Analytica misappropriated the data to suppress the votes of black people. 

Harris strongly voted against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court due to the sexual misconduct allegations and his views against women's reproductive health rights. 

Sponsored by her, Senate passed the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act (S. 3178) which made lynchings a hate crime. 

She also put forward her views during the impeachment trial of Donald Trump in 2020.

Presidential Bid

Kamala Harris had announced her intention to run for the president and was a top contender and potential frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

In 2019 January, she officially announced her candidacy for president of the United States in the 2020 elections. She had received adequate public support during the Democrat debates for observations on Joe Biden and Tulsi Gabbard. 

Harris withdrew from seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination, citing a shortage of funds and endorsed Joe Biden for president. Her decision to withdraw earned criticisms, notably at millionaire nominees who funded their own campaigns, giving a disadvantage to co-contenders. 

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Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Vice President Bid

After he was confirmed as a presidential nominee, Joe Biden announced that he will choose a woman as his running mate. Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed the Biden-Harris ticket. 

The House Majority whip Jim Clyburn suggested to Biden that he choose a black woman to honour their loyalty and role in nation-building. Joe Biden eventually announced Kamala Harris as his running mate. She is the third woman after Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin to be picked as the vice-presidential nominee.

Kamala Harris continued to throw criticisms at Donald Trump's handling of the COVID-19, notably his campaign to end the affordable care act during the pandemic. 

She promised to protect women's reproductive healthcare rights like safe and legal abortion. She also spoke about the need to protect the teacher's rights and hike their salaries. 

She also supports the social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and March For Our Lives. 

With 290 Electoral votes, Joe Biden-Kamala Harris campaign has secured their places as the leaders of the United States. 

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Kamala Harris and Joe Biden