On November 7, after a grueling election week, millions of Americans exhaled for the first time in four years. Joe Biden was announced the 46th President-elect of the United States, making Kamala Harris the first female, first Black, and first South Asian Vice President-elect in the nation’s history. As Harris strutted to the podium to the beat of Mary J. Blige’s “Work That” for her victory speech on Saturday night, she was met with a symphony of cheers and car horns, honoring her victory. Finally, an adult who speaks with dignity and respect. Finally, someone who might work for us instead of themselves. The relief was palpable.
Harris, standing proudly in a white suit and with a warm smile, began her first address as Vice President-elect with a hopeful anecdote. “John Lewis, before his passing, wrote democracy is not a state, it’s an act,” she said. “And what he meant was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It’s only as strong as our willingness to fight for it.”
This year, Americans fought. Trump’s presidency showed us what happens when democracy is abandoned. We countered his oppression with protests, advocacy, and action. We voted in record numbers despite egregious suppression tactics. We flipped states, and fought for representation by electing our own. We made space for women, indigenous, BIPOC, and queer members of Congress. And we did it all in a pandemic.
I want to speak directly to the Black women in our country. Thank you. You are too often overlooked, and yet are asked time and again to step up and be the backbone of our democracy. We could not have done this without you.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 9, 2020
Later in her speech, Harris referenced Black women as “the backbone of democracy.” Stacey Abrams, for example, led the charge in Georgia. She created an organization to register voters and empowered disenfranchised people to exercise their civil power. Her work ultimately led to Biden’s victory, and the traditionally red state turned blue for the first time in 28 years. Thanks to Black voters, Biden also won Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Even as Trump supporters protested the election’s validity, the Black community did not back down. In a now-viral statement, Rev. Steve Bland Jr., made our importance blatantly clear telling reporters, “we will determine the outcome, because we’ve gone from picking cotton to picking presidents.”
We did it, but we are done fighting alone. Harris’ statement just reiterated what we already know as Black women. When faced with adversity, we will always push for a brighter future. Yet we are still left wondering: What will Harris do to continue the battle? Her contentious past as a prosecutor leaves many uncertain about her ability to confront racial injustice, but as she enters the White House, she has the opportunity to right those wrongs.
As she continued her speech, the crowd watched Harris in awe. Black and Brown faces listened closely while she promised the return of a democracy and a stable government. People cheered and cried in a moment when hope felt stronger than doubt. And as she looked back at everyone with clear-eyed focus and confidence, she asserted her commitment to Americans.
“To the American people, no matter who you voted for, I will strive to be a Vice President like Joe was to President Obama,” she said, “Loyal, honest, and prepared, waking up every day thinking of you and your family. Because now is when the real work begins.”
Harris has a long road ahead, and the world will be watching. If she spends her time in office appeasing Republicans instead of listening to Black women and progressives, this moment of hope will fall short. But, hopefully, she will work with Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color to address the issues we care about the most — like systemic racism, mass incarceration, accessible healthcare, and COVID-19 prevention. How she handles this historic appointment is up to her, but as long as she fights for us, we will fight for her, too.