Last Tuesday night, my soon to be 3-year-old daughter watched the only Black woman who anchors a news show on prime time, Joy Reid, lead into a show about the first Black woman and first Asian to be nominated to be vice president of the United States and who could become the first woman ever to serve as vice president of the United States with a picture of the U.S. Capitol in the upper left corner of the screen. My daughter asked me to pick her up to touch the television and then put her hands over the image of the Capitol dome and said “mine.”
At her words I almost broke into tears. These moments are what representation creates. It erases the question of whether this country, this democracy and its symbols belong to us. That is what the nomination of a woman who is also of color means to every little girl and kid across this nation. Our girls will not have to doubt whether or not they can achieve their dreams if they work hard enough. Preparation, persistence and ambition will be qualities worth uplifting not mocking. This moment is why, after my child uttered that powerful word, I sat her down to read vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’s children’s book Superheroes are Everywhere. The premise of the book is that we can all become superheroes, even the child reading the book.
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Since I was a freshman at Howard University attending my first Charter Day Gala as then District Attorney Kamala Harris received a prestigious alumni achievement award, she has been a superhero of mine. As vice president of the United States she would become a superhero for us all—making that still untouchable highest glass ceiling finally possible for girls across our nation to aspire to without fear that it is impossible. I have often been upset at how Black women have shown up for everyone else but rarely are we shown up for—sometimes even for ourselves. This is especially apparent when it comes to violence against Black women both cisgender and transgender. I am proud of the movement created by Black women to change that for ourselves and for our daughters. I am also grateful that we were not let down once more and our support not taken for granted.
It is my hope and prayer that people don’t continue the narrative that Senator Harris was somehow supposed to fix 400 years of a broken criminal justice system built on the backs of the enslaved, indigenous, and poor in her eight years as California Attorney General or even in her first term as a U.S. Senator. She is a superhero, but she is not superhuman. It will take all of us to take a lesson from her children’s book and become superheroes at the ballot box and in our communities to ensure we have the votes and the people needed to usher in a more inclusive, equitable and just America. This is what is necessary to create the kind of America that some of our founders dreamed of, but could not manifest. I am hopeful that she and Biden can rebuild our country and truly “Build America Back Better.” I’m all in and I hope you will be too. This is an all-hands-on deck election. The only way we win against voter suppression and win both the popular vote and electoral college is with overwhelming turn out and constant vigilance.
We will need to be superheroes when we talk to our loved ones about the potential of a 7-2 conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court that would set us back generations. We will need to be superheroes to ensure we elect local leaders and judges and district attorneys and police chiefs who will work to reconstruct public safety in this nation. We will need to be superheroes to ensure we have state legislatures and governors who will write and sign into law policy that guts systemic racism and the mandated judicial decisions that follow and has resulted in far too many unjustly prisoned and for too long. We need superheroes to push for and pass laws that will reconstruct those policies with racist impact to become equitable policies and programs that help children like my daughter have opportunity, access, and freedom.
This moment calls for a president and vice president that will stop the murders by disease created by our own current president’s negligence and ego. We have been a nation paralyzed by the fear of discomfort when it comes to hard conversations about race and yet those conversations will be necessary to have a truly united nation. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the leaders we need to address the uncomfortable truths baked into our nation’s history. This is my daughter’s America and it is yours too. Let’s reclaim her for future generations together.
Victoria Kirby York is a civil rights advocate and former Obama political operative.