SEATTLE - Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is making history and breaking barriers, because not only is she a woman of color, she also is the first woman to hold the office, and as such represents a wider reflection of America as a whole.
Malika Lamont and her daughters Ru’ya Lamont and Puamelia Oclinaria live in the South Puget Sound region. The three are women of color and they offered to share their perspectives about Harris’ political rise with Q13 News.
“I felt pretty happy,” said Oclinaria when she learned Biden and Harris were favored to win the Whitehouse. “I was packing my bags beforehand,” she said.
“We both were,” added Ru’ya.
Cheering crowds filled the streets of Seattle celebrating with the news of a Biden-Harris presumptive victory. The roaring cheers were hard to miss in Rachel Issaka’s Capitol Hill neighborhood who said a Harris Vice-Presidency might signal progress for American women of color, including herself.
“People like me, black doctors and children of immigrants, can finally have a way to thrive in this country that hasn’t been possible over the past 4 years,” Issaka said.
Regardless of Harris’ professional resume or political career, her prominence represents a seismic shift in terms of the visibility of both women and people of color in one of the highest levels of elected office for generations to come. It was also emotional for local politicians including Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards.
“It will inspire young black girls across America,” said Woodards. “It will inspire you girls across America.”
“It’s just amazing to see how far we’ve come as a country,” said Marilyn Strickland, a former Mayor of Tacoma and Congresswoman-elect for Washington’s 10th Congressional District.
Strickland will be the first woman of color to serve Washington State in Congress, an historic first she shares with Harris.
Women and communities of color, long underrepresented among federal leadership, can offer authentic and diverse perspectives that can enhance representation for marginalized people. Strickland said electing more women and women of color to office might help others in those communities visualize a path to a career in politics.
“The more of us who run, the more of us will be in office,” she said. “The more people will see it’s possible and more people will say yes, women can lead.”
Electing the country’s first woman of color as Vice President for many is an achievement worthy of celebration, but some say providing similar opportunities for everyone is essential to make America truly of and by the people.
“Black excellence is nothing new,” said Malika.
“It’s not something that’s going to be a walk through the park,” said Oclinaria. “Expect to be ignored, expect to work for what you want because we live in a cruel world and you have to force them to look at you.”
Her sister Ru’ya replied, “And if that makes them mad, so be it.”
“Oh well,” said Oclinaria, “At least you have their attention.”