Kamala Harris is not ready to celebrate just yet. Though supporters across the globe are commemorating the California senator’s historic appointment as the first Black woman selected to run as vice president on a major party ticket, treasured words from Harris’s late mother caution the disciplined daughter not to skip steps on a hopeful path to a Biden-Harris victory.
“My mother taught me, you got to deal with what’s right in front of you,” Harris reveals to ESSENCE when asked how she’ll measure her success as a vice president, “because staring down the road at that thing over there, you might trip over this thing right here.”
Down the road is a Harris vice presidency. But “this thing right here,” as the presumptive candidate describes it, is “the most important election of our lifetime.” An election, Harris notes during a virtual sit-down on Saturday, is less than 80 days away and shaping up to be an unprecedented vote amid the backdrop of a national pandemic. Multiple national polls show former vice president Joe Biden leading Donald Trump including in five out of six battleground states, but without a single vote cast in the 2020 presidential election, success for Democrats is still debatable. It’s why Harris says she’s more focused on what she needs to do to be a successful running mate on the Democratic ticket and is trusting that everything else will fall into place.
For someone who has sought elected office as early as her days at Howard University, it is understandable that Harris applies discretion. A year ago she was traversing the nation delivering rousing speeches on why “Kamala For The People” was a movement Americans should support, but by December she had discontinued her run for the nation’s highest elected position. An unsuccessful bid for the presidency offers the former Attorney General of California a perspective that very few people will ever know. Harris will likely use that context to help Biden secure a win in states where enthusiasm for the longtime politician could use a boost. At 22 years his junior, Harris brings a level of energy that can not be overlooked. Plus, the Black and South Asian HBCU grad whose a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and The Links taps into multiple identities, never before represented on that level of government.
Harris’s role as Biden’s running mate commandeers an exciting moment for many Black people who believe it’s high time that a Black woman occupy such a space. But it can not be overlooked that some critics believe Biden’s choice of Harris represents a commitment to incremental change during a time when drastic change is necessary. Criminal justice reform, healthcare reform, an overhaul of the education system and the ability to earn an adequate wage are all on the ballot in 2020. Harris says she understands and is ready to do the work that is essential to creating a more equitable nation.
“There’s no question that we need immediate change and drastic change and that’s so much of what the Biden-Harris platform and what the Biden-Harris administration will be about,” Harris insists. “It’s about saying, we need to immediately address a number of issues that demand priority and immediate attention. And that relates to getting people back to work. It means investing in infrastructure and creating millions of new jobs. It means fighting for healthcare for all people.”
Prior to COVID-19, inequities between Black and white Americans persisted. The pandemic, however, has underscored just how large a gap remains. While the Trump administration continues to praise their coronavirus response efforts daily, more than 169,000 nationwide deaths can be attributed to the virus that has shown a greater propensity to prove fatal for African Americans. “What the Trump administration is doing right now, is they’re in court trying to get rid of the Obama-Biden Affordable Care Act,” Harris duly notes, posing a stark contrast to what she says will be the concerns of a Biden administration.
One could likely predict that a public health outbreak would call attention to the lack of medical resources afforded to so many Americans, but what was less foreseeable was the immediate call to action to address the racist systems that have remained in place throughout the history of the United States. The death of George Floyd triggered a movement likely not to dissipate as long as the demands of protesters go unmet. And Harris says such a time as this requires a leader who doesn’t spend “full time trying to sow hate and division among people.” Harris believes that Americans are now facing “three of the biggest crises that our country has ever faced — two of recent making, and one that has been around for centuries, meaning a public health crisis and economic crisis, and finally a reckoning in a more broad level around the systemic racism in our country.”
Harris promises that a Biden-Harris ticket will fight for criminal justice reform and police reform. She also assures that a Biden-Harris administration will prioritize the movement to rectify past wrongs because she believes it’s the only way to heal. “I have seen too many cases of not only unarmed Black folks being killed, but women,” Harris shares, “and we need to speak their name and understand that we have to have justice.”
On Thursday, Biden and Harris will accept the nomination of Democratic presidential candidate and vice-presidential candidate, respectively. They will each offer an acceptance speech, likely brimming with optimism for the future and their hopes for new possibilities. And in the next 79 days, Americans will have to decide if any of their future plans will ultimately come to fruition. Harris hopes that people will organize, come up with a voting plan, cast their ballots early, or show up at their polling place in support of the Biden-Harris ticket. If the choice voters make propels the history-making duo to the White House, Kamala Harris won’t be the only one ready to celebrate.Share :