Featured photo: Kamala Harris speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People hosted by the Center for the American Progress Action Fund and the SEIU at the Enclave in Las Vegas, Nevada. (photo by Gage Skidmore)
It finally happened: A woman of color will serve as vice president of the United States.
On Nov. 7, Democratic candidate Joseph Biden was elected president while running-mate Kamala Harris would serve as vice president. The groundbreaking win was monumental for women of color around the Triad who have strived for generations for representation in such powerful positions.
“It’s a huge step forward that gives me hope,” says Maria Perdomo, a Colombia native and UNCG alumna who has resided in Greensboro for 15 years.
She compares waiting for the results of the election to the state of the US in the last four years.
“Election night I was constantly refreshing my phone,” says Perdomo. “I was sleeping but I wasn’t resting, kind of like how the past four years was never in a restful state.”
The unrest Perdomo refers to is police brutality against people of color and rising racial tension.
Deidre James, political director for US representative-elect Kathy Manning’s campaign, believes that without Harris, Biden would not have become president, citing the collectiveness of Black people as an aide to the campaign.
“Especially in the year of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, when you see how we march in the streets and organize, that’s power,” she says. “You can’t ignore it.”
James found Harris to be relatable in more ways than one as both women are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the first historically Black Greek-lettered sorority. James joined AKA to become part of something bigger than herself, she says. She says Harris exemplifies everything she believed AKA to be when she joined: successful women of distinction. To James, any member of one of the Divine Nine — a group of nine historically Black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities — achieving such a feat would have been a celebration, but Harris being her soror makes it that much better.
“To have it be someone from my sorority makes the victory even sweeter,” she says.
Tammy Tao of Greensboro says that she has complicated feelings about Harris becoming the first woman of color to ascend to the office. While she’s excited about representation, she says that she resents living in a time where women of color are tokenized and used for strategic purposes.
“It somehow undermines their accomplishments in my mind,” Tao says. “As if the only way she got there was because Biden promised a minority woman. It couldn’t possibly be because she’s a damn smart human.”
Still, she says that she’s thrilled to see a non-white male in the second highest office.
“I don’t particularly relate or get more excited about her being part-Asian, but I’m excited about her and her energy,” Tao says.
Perdomo says she believes the dialogue in the White House will change after Harris becomes vice president, as she hopes she’ll bring more attention to women’s rights.
“For Black women, for Asian women, for women in general, to see someone who looks like them be open to conversation is a huge deal,” Perdomo says.
For James, Harris’ appointment is more personal.
“When Black people get representation in the media, that’s usually limited to commercials about soap or superficial things,” she says.
“This representation is real, it’s close to home. She went to an HBCU.”
Just after Harris secured the vice presidency, James mentioned how Asya Branch became the first Black woman to win Miss Mississippi and the first representative from Mississippi to win Miss USA, further emphasizing her point that what’s happening right now will change the narrative of the United States.
“Black women are a force to be reckoned with,” she says.