Editors’ Note: Robbi Barber was asked by the News-Graphic to share her perspective on the historic election of Kamala Harris as vice president of the United States. Barber, like Harris, is an accomplished woman of color. Harris will be inaugurated tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 20.
The first, the first, the first…she’s the first on many fronts! The first woman of color to serve as attorney general and district attorney of California! The first woman of color on a presidential ticket for a major party! The first woman of color as vice president-elect and the first vice president-elect to have graduated from a historically Black university! The first woman of color Vice President-elect is Mrs. Kamala Harris!
She has made history and absolutely shattered one of the highest glass ceilings with all her “firsts.” According to Barbara Lee, Oakland congresswoman, she says “Black women have always been the backbone of this Democratic Party, and oftentimes not valued for our ability to lead. But I tell you now, black women are showing that black women lead, and we’ll never go back to the days where candidates only knew our value in terms of helping them get elected. Now they will see how we govern from the White House.”
As stated previously, Black and brown women are shown as holding an intricate role in American government. They have done a preeminent job in helping others achieve the position Vice President Harris now holds. However, when embarking on the same journey to obtain the same or similar positions they advocated for others, they are often seen as struggling or fighting through the pain of rejection, discrimination, injustices, racial inequalities, and low wages. Vice President Harris is instead changing the narrative of negative portrayal of black women, counteracting the common theme of under-appreciation in American government.
The contributions of black women in years past have been overlooked and taken for granted. In the past, we have been told who we are, how we should behave, how we should speak or talk! However, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama, to name a few, are women of color who took a stand and used their voices to tell the world what they are capable of accomplishing. These Black and brown women were true forerunners that paved the way to make today’s journey possible for the many women coming after them.
In this year of 2021, we will continue to see many firsts. It will bring a new day, a new year in exchange for yesteryear, a new hope instead of despair, a changed world for Black and brown women where we are judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin, expose inequalities for equalities, change injustices to justices served, and view what were impossibilities as possibilities. Across our nation, black and brown women can now see their value, their contribution, their worth — and blessed will be the day when America can see it too.
Over 200 plus years, the Black and brown woman has become very successful. But let’s not forget the invisible tears she has wept due to the unjust struggles she has faced to get where she is today. She has learned to weep dry tears; she has learned a different way to cry and a different way to work.
Through it all, she has learned how to persevere through adversity to find her purpose and be successful! Vice President Kamala Harris made the “glass ceiling” no longer an invisible barrier for Black and brown little girls and women, but an opportunity to look through the glass and see themselves!