Kamala Harris

What the Vice-Presidential Nomination of Kamala Harris Means for Representation, Equity

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When Kamala Harris officially accepted the vice-presidential nomination, history was made. On that night, there were Black women, Indian-Americans, Jamaican-Americans, HBCU graduates and others who saw themselves in Harris; proving representation does, in fact, matter.

“We kind of knew it was coming because so many Black women and Black people across the country were like ‘hey Joe you better do this. We need some representation on the ticket,’” said Amber Sims. “Representation matters and this is something that we need you to do. And he did.”

Sims is Director of Regional Impact for Leadership for Educational Equity. For so many Black women, the nomination was a long time coming.

“It matters because when you go to the Democratic Party and you think about who has voted faithfully for them it has been the Black community, and more specifically it has been Black women,” said Sims. “Black women have been holding the Democratic Party down for a really long time and have really not gained much from it.”

In North Texas, much of the Indian-American population sees this as a proud moment as well. Shabnam Modgil is CEO of Radio Caravan and past president of the Dallas United Nations Association. She said the population has grown tremendously since she arrived more than 30 years ago,

“Out of all the countries of the Indian subcontinent, we probably have close to a half of million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” said Modgil. "The 1.3 billion people of India must be rejoicing right now to have her name there. She has always mentioned the influence that her mom has had."

Modgil said, as a woman, she’s been anticipating this moment.

“You know, there are very few nations that had women leaders. But in the Indian subcontinent I think four out of six countries had been led by women,” she said. “So, we wonder how the United States so far has not had a woman leader. I think it’s a proud moment for every woman.”

But it’s about much more than representation. Harris continues to face criticism about her time as District Attorney and Attorney General in California. Some argue Harris did not do enough to support social reform.

Sims said Black women are watching for meaningful change. She said Black women can recognize the magnitude of the moment, while also being conflicted about Harris’ past.

“Not only can we be, but also, we should be,” said Sims. “It’s not just our Vice President nominee who has something to answer for. We also have to remember that there were tons of people, including the Clintons, including the Democrats, including religious leaders, our local leaders who signed onto the legislation for The Crime Bill.”

She said she is hopeful Black women’s voices will be elevated on several topics. The nomination of Harris shines a brighter light on issues the country must reckon with.

“How do we all change our day to day practices and beliefs? Who are we hiring? Who are we not hiring? Who are we giving opportunities to? Who are we not giving opportunities to,?” Sims said. “It’s nothing if we have this position at the top with Kamala and we don’t see benefits from the bottom up. We want someone, not just a representative, but someone whose policies align, whose views align.”

Recently, Harris’ race and ethnicity have been a topic of discussion. Modgil said this only underscores a glaring problem that must be faced head-on.

“’Is she black, is she a little less black is she Indian?’ This brings us to the topic that she very much will have to address, and that is going to be racism in the country,” said Modgil.

Both Sims and Modgil agree on the fact that many things can be true at the same time. There can be pride in representation. There can be accountability when it comes to policy such and criminal justice reform. And there can also be hope.

“My hope is that Kamala is not shrinking from the feedback that she’s getting from this country, but using it as an opportunity to learn, to reconcile,” said Sims. “To reconcile with the inequities that have happened and look to rebuild the America that we can really be proud of. The America that we wrote down on paper and that we are still aspiring to be.”

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