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Kamala Harris becomes first woman and first woman of color US Vice President

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Nov 07, 2020 1:05 pm Updated Nov 16, 2020 8:13 am

Senator Kamala Harris makes history as the first Black woman and South Asian-American to become Vice President of the United States.

Harris was elected to office with President-elect Joe Biden, against incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in one of the nation's most controversial elections on Nov. 3.

Prior to Harris' candidacy, at least 11 women vied to be Vice President of America. No one made the cut, not because they lacked determination or effort, but simply because they did not receive wide support.

Like these women, Harris has had her fair share of experiences where she was demanded to stay silent. "I have been told too many times in my career, 'It's not your time, it's not your turn.' But let me tell you, I eat 'no' for breakfast," she said in her Instagram video dated Nov. 2.

Fueled by her own struggles both as a woman and woman of color, the 56-year-old lawyer has been living her life geared towards one goal—to be the protector of minorities.

Empowered for the future

Harris was born on Oct. 20, 1964 in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Oakland, California.

Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, is a famous Indian breast-cancer researcher. Her father Donald Harris is a Jamaican economist and professor at Stanford University. They divorced when Harris was seven years old. 

The eldest of two siblings, Harris began taking notice of society's unjust treatment towards her mother and other people of color at a very young age.

"You see a lot when you're the firstborn. I saw my mother and how she worked hard, and she was full of pride, and would never want anyone to pity her. She never complained about anything, but I also knew how she suffered. I knew how she stayed up late at night trying to figure things out. She was a Brown woman with an accent," she said in her YouTube video on Sept. 25.

I remember us going in a store and being followed. I remember how people would look at my mother and make assumptions about her intelligence or her capacity or the right to belong. As the eldest child, you see this.

Harris also witnessed how her mother single-handedly trained them to be strong and courageous women.

"My mother was very well aware that she was raising two Black girls to be two Black women. And she did that, instilling in us pride in our culture—and cultures—always knowing that we would face all kinds of obstacles. But she never let us believe that anything could get in the way of our dreams or pursuits," she recounted.

"My sister Maya is two and a half years younger than me. So at the age of two and a half, I was told, 'Look after your sister." And it is something that is very much a part of just who I am, which is that look after those who need your support or need your help. And that has been what motivated me to do the work I've done—to look after and protect people."

Harris (left) with her sister Maya and mother Shyamala.

In 1976, Harris moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with her mother and sister. She took her secondary education at Westmount High School in the same city.

Harris laid the groundwork of her advocacy when she took up B.A. in political science and economics at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She went on to study law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1989 and earned her Juris Doctor degree in 1990.

At the Senate, Harris is known to call out anyone's misconduct—even those of President Trump's.

The first South Asian American senator

As a defender of the minority, Harris has been centering her career on fighting reforms in US' criminal justice system.

She began as a deputy district attorney in Almeda Country, then managing attorney of the Career Criminal Unit of San Francisco District’s Attorney Office in 1998.

She was appointed chief of its Community and Neighborhood Division in 2000 and established the state’s first Bureau of Children’s Justice.

In 2003, she became San Francisco Attorney General and in 2010, she stepped up as California Attorney General.

Her wide range of accomplishments includes settling the improper mortgage practices of the country’s five largest financial institutions, securing marriage equality, and officiating the first same-sex wedding in the state.

Harris was elected as the US’ second African American woman and first South Asian American senator in November 2016. 

She served on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on the Budget.

Biden and Harris pledge to bring back the "soul" of America once they take office in 2021.

President Joe Biden's winning choice

Harris initially planned to run for the presidential seat in 2020. She announced it on Good Morning America in January 2019, but backtracked in December that year because of lack of financial resources.

But luck has its way with the strong, smart, and bold.

Eight months later, Biden announced that he was choosing Harris to be his running mate in the 2020 elections. “I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked Kamala Harris—a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants—as my running mate," he said.

He added, “Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with [my son] Beau. I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I'm proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign."

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Vice President for minorities

Harris has been a strong advocate of women's rights through and through. According to BBC, she has expressed support for "contentious taxpayer-funded abortions" during her candidacy and argued that it would save the lives of marginalized women.

Likewise, she will continue securing the rights of the LGBTQ+ youth of America once she assumes office.

"It's about in the first 100 days, passing the equality act," she said in her Instagram video on Nov. 2. "It's also about working that our LGBTQ+ youth are safe and protected and not bullied. And then, in particular, our transgender community with a particular emphasis on transgender Black women, making sure that they are protected and safe."

Harris has said she will fight for equality in the workplace by providing all workers with "six months paid family leave for personal or medical issues, including those related to domestic violence." She also vowed to close the gender pay gap by requiring large companies to be "equally pay certified."

As the daughter of immigrants, Harris pledged to help provide citizenship to the millions of undocumented immigrants in the US. She also supports decriminalizing border crossings by undocumented immigrants and providing taxpayer-funded healthcare to them.

Photos from @kamalaharris on Instagram.