by Swara Tewari //
On Aug. 11, Joe Biden named Kamala Harris his running mate in the 2020 presidential election. I remember getting the news update on my phone and then immediately running down the hall and bursting into my sister’s room to tell her, as I usually do when something even remotely interesting happens.
“Guess who Biden just chose as his Vice President,” I said in a rush.
My sister shrugged curiously.
“Kamala Harris,” I replied.
She processed this for a moment.
“Oh my god, what if they actually win?” she had asked slowly. “That would be insane.”
I had nodded slowly. It was a seemingly impossible thing to us — a person of Indian heritage potentially serving as the Vice President of the U.S.
As Indian-Americans, we were used to seeing ourselves underrepresented in every corner of American life — media, entertainment, pop culture — and politics. While authentic representation of other minorities, such as Asian-Americans, has recently increased, Indian-Americans are still noticeably underrepresented. That’s why the very-tangible possibility of Kamala Harris serving as the Vice President both astounded and disarmed us.
It goes without saying that Harris has her work cut out for her — trailblazers carry the burden of setting the precedent for all who follow while having no rule book to follow themselves. As the first woman of color to serve as Vice President, she will undoubtedly face a large amount of scrutiny. However, Harris is certainly more than up to the task. In an interview with The New Yorker in 2019, she famously said “Here’s the thing: every office I’ve run for I was the first to win. First person of color. First woman. First woman of color. Every time.”
Harris is ready for the next four years — the only question is if America is ready for her. Her serving as Vice President challenges the white male monopoly of the U.S. government that spans the entirety of America’s history. Her four-year-term will undoubtedly alter the face of American politics and pave the way for the women who follow her. Her success has also made the impossible seem possible to thousands of black and brown girls and young women, like my sister and me.
Last Wednesday, at the Inauguration ceremony, as I watched Harris take her sacred oath of office in her unapologetic royal-purple coat, I felt, for the first time in a long time, that perhaps America was still a place where the impossible could happen.