It took 231 years, but women finally shattered the second-highest glass ceiling in the U.S.
With Kamala Harris’ win Saturday as the next vice president, she is now not just the first woman, but the first Black person and the first Indian American to ascend to that role.
Harris acknowledged the usually underappreciated role that Black women, especially, play in doing the hard work of organizing and turning out Democratic voters.
Black women are “too often overlooked but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy,” Harris said in her Saturday-night acceptance speech.
The Democratic ticket’s victory was fueled by women overall, who voted for Biden-Harris by 13 points, and by Black women specifically, who supported the ticket by over 90%, the largest margin of any group.
While understanding that identity alone is not paramount in politics or anything else, the symbolism of seeing a woman — and especially a woman of color — in one of the highest offices in the land is tremendously powerful and opens up possibilities for future generations that did not exist before.
Across the country, Black women and women of color celebrated Harris’ historic achievement, and Seattle was no different.
Political consultant Seferiana Day said that as a woman of color in politics, Harris’ win was a sweet victory, “generations in the making.”
“I feel proud, moved to tears of joy that Black and brown women and girls have representation at the highest level,” Day said. “This is a collective, profound win.”
Artist Kimisha Turner said that while there is work to do moving forward, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on what this means to future generations. “Little Black and brown girls will get to see someone that looks like them hold this position and be inspired to pursue their dreams, education and empowerment,” she said.
In the South Asian community, Harris’ election is huge. Priya Frank, the director of equity, diversity and inclusion at Seattle Art Museum, said Harris represented the fulfillment of dreams of women who paved the way.
“Today I get to see my mom, my aunts and myself reflected in our vice president of the United States,” Frank said. “As a South Asian woman, I honestly never imagined I would see that in my lifetime, let alone theirs. The gratitude I feel that my strongest influences get to experience this moment truly feels like a gift for all of the sacrifices they made, the fears they conquered, the ways they stood up for others, and the way they paved for me.”
The election of Joe Biden and Harris — propelled by the vision and labor of Black women — provides an opportunity for the Democratic Party to shift priorities and invest in the leadership of the people who are making their success possible.
Arts administrator Tera Beach said while Harris’ election is “exciting and thrilling,” she hopes that “in the larger picture that the ‘[Democratic] party’ actually starts to invest in and support the Black community outside of using them for props. The party needs a major reset and the Black community has shown up over and over and over again and are deserving of the same investment.”
Despite Harris’ win, the U.S. has nothing to brag about when it comes to women’s representation in government. According to a global ranking of women in parliaments and legislative bodies by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in October the U.S. ranked a dismal 87th for the number of women representatives in Congress.
When she heard the election results, Seattle artist Eliaichi Kimaro said the “protective armor” she had built around her heart began to melt. She wept as she finally let herself feel the depth of the fear she had carried the past four years. Even though she knows representation matters, she was not prepared for how it would hit her.
“I was not prepared for how it would feel to see my Black self, my African/Asian mixed-race self, my daughter-of-immigrants self, my woman self — to see Kamala Harris, who embodies all these parts of who I am, win the vice presidency,” Kimaro said. “Witnessing her success reminds me that who I am and how I live on this Earth matters. It shows me that I can make a difference.”
As a woman of color, I know that just having Harris in the White House will not magically change the country’s systemic issues. But seeing an Asian American and African American woman in the vice presidency means more things are possible today than there were yesterday, and that means something.
There is much work ahead. We are still in the midst of a devastating global pandemic that is getting worse by the day and the movement for racial justice that gained momentum this summer is just getting started.
But conceptual artist Natasha Marin said it is imperative to take a moment to celebrate.
“There is a palpable Black Joy in seeing ourselves together [and represented] in celebration,” she said. “We have earned our joy — this joy is our birthright!”