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The historical significance of electing the first female, first black vice president

The historical significance of electing the first female, first black vice president
Posted at 8:13 PM, Nov 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-08 17:58:58-05

California Senator Kamala Harris Saturday became the first woman, the first woman of color and the first South Asian vice president-elect.

Harris spoke Saturday night to supporters.

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last," she said.

The 56-year-old is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica. She was the first African American woman to be elected district attorney of San Francisco in 2004. In 2011, she became the first woman, first African American and first Asian American to serve as California's attorney general. Harris has been a U.S. Senator since 2016, the second black woman and first South Asian senator in history.

Rashad Shabazz is an associate professor of African and African American studies at ASU. He's an expert in human geography, black cultural studies and gender studies. He said millions of black girls and women will look at Harris and see two things:

"One- someone who looks like them has experiences like them, understands and engages in the world in the way they do, and a result of that two--will have empathy and understanding of the challenges that they face," said Shabazz

He believes that perspective will impact public policy that addresses these communities' needs and women of color specifically.

"Having women of color and black women specifically, needs to be addressed, and to have a voice like her at this high level is incredibly valuable and it's never been done before," he said.

Shabazz said there was a feeling of elation and relief among minority communities after hearing that former Vice President Joe Biden was the president-elect. But Shabazz said there are also emotions of anxiety and frustration.

"It took a herculean effort-- unprecedented levels of voter participation across the board but particularly from communities of color--to unseat this president who has been profoundly destructive to the country as a whole and to vulnerable communities like poor people, immigrants, people of color and black communities specifically," he said.

Ersula Ore is also an associate professor of African & African American studies at ASU. She works in anti-black violence and African American rhetoric recently wrote a book called Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, & American Identity.

She said she's interested to see how Harris and Biden work together.

"I don't want this to be simply a presidency or an administration in which we have the black female body in figure right, in position, but no significance, no value, no voice, no action no agency and therefore perpetuating the same kind of status that black women have historically been placed in," she said.

Ore said historically, black women have helped drive policy, like in the fight for voting, reproductive and civil rights, and Harris has an opportunity to make an impact.

"I'm looking forward to ways Kamala does that in unison with other women of color we currently have in the senate right now," said Ore.

Shabazz said the work is far from over, and it's up to communities of color to do their part.

"They need to recognize that their voices matter and that without them the Democratic cannot win elections and in realizing that, it means that they must play a different role in the Democratic party and a different role in our local and national politics," he said.