Women of color react to election of Harris as VP

Administrator and senior note historical significance

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Senior Whitley Walton, left, participates in the EMBRACE Club’s tour of historic Indiana Avenue earlier this school year. Walton provided her thoughts on the election of Sen. Kamala Harris as vice president of the United States.

Julia Hurley, Reporter

Kamala Harris has made history as the first woman and person of color to be elected vice president. Now, she serves as an example to girls and women across the country, including those on the Hill. 

Before serving as the California attorney general, then one of California’s two senators and then eventually becoming the vice president-elect, Harris attended college at Howard University, where she joined the first Greek letter organization founded by Black women, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.. Along with Harris, the school’s director of philanthropic engagement, Mrs. Jean E. Smith ‘97, is a lifetime member of the Divine Nine, the historically Black Greek letter organizations.

The sorority experience may have helped Harris make connections that led her to her career path. Smith wrote in an email, “I can’t speak for vice president-elect Harris, but I know that leadership, service and poise are some of the key (attributes) that have been polished and elevated through my membership in AKA.”

On the campaign trail, there was lots of speculation about who the president-elect Joe Biden would select as his running mate. By choosing Harris, she made history as the first Black and South Asian woman, and daughter of immigrants, to be elected vice president.

Senior Whitley Walton said, “When he announced that Kamala Harris was going to be his VP, I was ecstatic and surprised at the same time because I did not think I was going to be hearing about Kamala after she didn’t win the Democratic (nomination for president). But when he announced her, I was like oh my gosh, we could have a Black woman be the VP, and I thought that was so crazy, so exciting.”

Smith echoed a similar sentiment. In an email, she wrote, “The historical significance of the first graduate of an historically Black college and university to be on a major party ticket, the first Black woman, the first South Asian woman to be on a major party ticket as a vice presidential candidate, that’s huge.”

Smith also pointed out that this is a nod to political ancestors such as late Congress members John Lewis and Shirley Chisolm, who she said, “paved the way for Kamala Harris.”

This year’s presidential election was significant in many ways, becoming one of the longest elections in terms of tallying results and producing the largest voter turnout in history. In the end, Biden received the most votes cast for a presidential candidate in United States history and defeated incumbent Donald Trump.

Smith said she cried when she found out Harris would be the vice president, knowing that her daughters would have witnessed someone who looked like them be elected to this position. “(Kamala Harris) is showing little Black girls, South Asian girls, immigrants that they have a place in this country, even as valuable as second in command,” Smith wrote.

Walton said that she was nervous about the election because she didn’t know what was going to happen, but when Biden won, she was excited that Harris would be the first woman vice president to represent so many diverse communities. 

Walton said, “I think little girls and basically anybody who’s an immigrant, or a black American, an Asian American, and just any person of color, can see themselves in that same position, being so high up. They’re possibly even thinking you know what, let me be the next president, let me be the first female president, the first Latina president. I’m really excited to see what happens in the future, too.”