The first South Asian-American, the first graduate of an HBCU (Howard), and the first member of a Black sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha) to hold the second highest office in the U.S. executive branch, Harris’ was elevated to this height in large part through the votes of millions of Black women, and the on-the-ground organizing led by thousands in crucial states like Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Despite the 18 percent of Black male voters who went to the polls for Trump, there is undoubtedly the expectation that the Biden-Harris administration has a mandate to forcefully tackle systemic racism impacting the Black community at large—which Biden himself spoke to on Friday while votes were still being tallied—and that 56-year-old Harris will be a youthful if not progressive force in the 77-year-old President-elect’s policy making.
A former district attorney in San Francisco who went on to be elected as California’s attorney general, the first Black woman to do so, and then only the second Black woman senator in Congress in 2016, according to the New York Times, Harris is no stranger to the challenges and expectations of breaking barriers.
She was a frequent target of gendered attacks from the GOP during the lead-up to the election and was even tasked by the media with answering questions about whether she was a “socialist”—similar to the consistent and unfounded accusations against the last Black person with the temerity to seek and win the most rarefied and historically white elected offices in the U.S. “When we talk about breaking barriers, some would suggest that you’re just on this side of the barrier and then you turn out on this side of the barrier,” Harris once remarked to a crowd of young Black women at Spelman College.
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