'Groundbreaking': Kamala Harris to Become First Black, South Asian Woman Vice President

Senator Kamala Harris will be the next Vice President of the United States, shattering the glass ceiling not only as the first woman to hold the position, but also the first woman of color, after Joe Biden's victory over President Donald Trump.

Harris, who is African American and South Asian, played an integral role for the Biden campaign down the stretch in Black and Latino communities, as well as in interviews with Black and Spanish-language media, which had large, critical audiences the campaign wanted to reach.

In a statement posted to Twitter shortly after the race was called by several media outlets, Harris tweeted that the presidential election "is about so much more than Joe Biden or me. It's about the soul of American and our willingness to fight for it. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Let's get started."

"This is a realization of a dream for millions of us," said Aimee Allison, the president of She the People, which works to elevate the political power of women of color. "Women of color were the kryptonite to Trump's antics, and once the smoke clears, the country is going to recognize how important they were to this victory."

Harris was always near the top of the short list to be Biden's vice presidential nominee, but the pressure to choose a Black woman ramped up after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police led to national protests in his name.

Angela Rye, the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, was one of the writers of a Washington Post op-ed that called on Biden to choose a Black woman as his running mate because the Black community had saved his candidacy in primary states such as South Carolina and across the South.

Rye told Newsweek that Harris' ascension to becoming the next vice president is a "wonderful moment" but said the development was earned, not given.

"It will be great to have a woman that looks like us fill a seat that she deserves," said Rye, who has been using her media platform to get out the Black and youth vote. "The reality of it is we've always done this work."

I'm so excited about the historic election of Kamala Harris as the first Black woman, first South Asian woman headed to the White House.
Glynda Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights

Glynda Carr, who co-founded Higher Heights to grow the political power of Black women from the voting booth to elected office, also has been on the frontlines of this work. Carr helped elect 11 Black women to Congress since 2011, including Harris.

"I'm so excited about the historic election of Kamala Harris as the first Black woman, first South Asian woman headed to the White House," Carr told Newsweek, naming Harris as part of the Shirley Chisholm legacy, the first Black woman member of Congress, and first Black woman to run for president from a major party.

She cited research about "role-modeling," or how political leadership creates possibilities for young girls and young girls of color. She recalled a picture of her youngest preschool-age god-daughter coming close to the wide-screen television to watch Harris give a speech and touching the screen as she did so.

But after the win comes the time for the Biden-Harris ticket to deliver, activists said. Nekima Levy, a Minnesota civil rights attorney and Black Lives Matter activist who was on the ground after Floyd's death sparked protests, said Harris as vice president is "groundbreaking and monumental."

Still, she said, Biden and Harris must recognize that they "have so much work to do because of their previous policy decisions and practices involving mass incarceration and criminal justice."

"My expectation is they will use the bully pulpit and fulfilling their campaign promises to correct those past decisions," she added.

Carr said Harris is uniquely positioned to deal with race relations, criminal justice, and protecting and expanding voting rights as vice president, and invoked Biden's requirement that his VP choice be someone who would be the last person in the Oval Office giving him counsel.

"She will carry the voices of women and black women into that room," Carr said.

kamala harris
Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) makes a campaign stop at the Palm Beach State College on October 31, 2020 in Lake Worth, Florida. Harris continues to campaign before the November 3rd election day. Joe Raedle/Getty