Kamala Harris is first Black woman to become vice president

Kamala Harris is set to make history as the first Black woman to become vice president of America.

The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

Harris, 56, represents the multiculturalism that defines America but is largely absent from Washington’s power centre.

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Her Black identity has allowed her to speak in personal terms in a year of reckoning over police brutality and systemic racism.

Vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (Pic: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (Pic: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

As the highest-ranking woman ever elected in American government, her victory gives hope to women who were devastated by Hillary Clinton’s defeat four years ago.

Harris has been a rising star in Democratic politics for much of the last two decades, serving as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator.

After she ended her own 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, Joe Biden tapped her as his running mate. They will be sworn in as president and vice president on January 20.

Biden’s running mate selection carried added significance because he will be the oldest president ever inaugurated, at 78, and hasn’t committed to seeking a second term in 2024.

Harris often framed her candidacy as part of the legacy — often undervalued — of pioneering Black women who came before her, including educator Mary McLeod Bethune, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate to seek a major party’s presidential nomination, in 1972.

“We’re not often taught their stories,” Harris said in August as she accepted her party’s vice presidential nomination. “But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”

Despite the excitement surrounding Harris, she and Biden face steep challenges, including deepening racial tensions in the U.S. in the wake of a pandemic that has taken a disproportionate toll on people of colour and a series of police killings of Black Americans.

Harris’ past work as a prosecutor has prompted scepticism among progressives and young voters who are looking to her to back sweeping institutional change over incremental reforms in policing, drug policy and more.

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