Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Column: What having a Black woman as the U.S. vice president means to me

January 27, 2021
<p>Janelle James is a reporter at The State News. Photographed by Jaylin  Mitchell.</p>

Janelle James is a reporter at The State News. Photographed by Jaylin Mitchell.

It is such a privilege to be able to witness this historic day.

After Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, I knew that it would be a long time before a woman even ran for that position. Fortunately, Vice President Kamala Harris proved me wrong. 

Harris has inspired me in more ways than I could imagine. Not only is she the first woman to serve as vice president but she is also a woman of African American and South Asian descent.

When she first announced her bid for presidency, I did not think that she would make it this far. She is very intelligent and passionate about helping marginalized communities, but I thought that she would receive so much backlash that she would eventually drop out of the race. 

Despite people questioning her race and saying that she imprisoned Black men and women in California, she remained resilient with her head held high. I admire her strength throughout this process and I hope that someday I can embody that. 

I had the pleasure of meeting the new vice president during July 2019 at a watch party for the Democratic debates that took place in Detroit. Although we met briefly, she was so gracious. I remember telling her that I wrote an article about when she spoke at the presidential forum hosted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that year and she was so excited for me. 

What makes me extremely proud about Vice President Harris is that she paved the way for the next generation of Black women in politics, including myself. She walked, so that I could run. 

My interest in politics began when I was in high school. By my junior year, I knew that I wanted to be a journalist, but I also knew that I wanted to use that to somehow contribute to politics. Of the many things I plan on accomplishing in the future, I one day hope to run for office. 

I have always had my doubts about becoming a politician and even disregarded it at some points, but now I know that my dream can become a reality. As a young Black woman, it makes me reflect on how I should see myself.

When the world looks at me, they may see a young Black girl whose hair is naturally curly and whose skin is a couple of shades too dark. What I see when I look in the mirror is a Black woman who can be president. I see a Black woman who can help flip a state blue, and I see a Black woman who can make legislation that changes the negative connotation that is often associated with Black people. 

When I think of Kamala Harris, I also think of Shirley Chisholm, who was the first Black person and first Black woman to run for president. In 1972, she announced her campaign for presidency. Although she didn’t win the democratic nomination, the fact that Chisholm ran for president at all was a significant part of our progression as Black people and Black women. 

A lot of people in the Black community advocate for more Black politicians to run for office so that our country reflects its population. Now that Harris has become the vice president of the U.S., I think our community is one step closer to achieving that goal. 

I especially feel that Millennials and Generation Z will help further bring this into fruition because we have a blueprint. We have people like Harris, Stacey Abrams and Keisha Lance Bottoms to look to when it is time for us to fill these positions.

Continuing this legacy of Black excellence is the best way for me to show my gratitude and appreciation for Vice President Harris. Now that she serves in the second most powerful position in our country, I feel more secure about running for office one day. 

This column is part of the 'We Can't Forget' print issue. Read the entire issue here. 

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