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Kamala Harris hailed for making ‘HERstory’ as first female, black and Asian-American Vice President

Barney Davis
·3 min read
<p>Ms Harris shares a moment with Barack Obama, the first black president, at the inauguration</p> (REUTERS)

Ms Harris shares a moment with Barack Obama, the first black president, at the inauguration

(REUTERS)

Kamala Harris has been hailed for making history as the first black and Asian-American woman to become vice president.

Ms Harris was sworn in as the first female vice president – and the first black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the position – in front of the US Capitol by Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Mr Biden said in his inauguration address: “Today, we mark the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, vice president Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change.”

She was escorted to the podium by Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, the officer who single-handedly took on a mob of Donald Trump supporters as they tried to breach the Senate floor during the Capitol insurrection that sought to overturn the election results.

Bernice King, the daughter of civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King, paid tribute to Ms Harris’ achievement posting an image of her captioned simply “HERstory”.

Hilary Clinton wrote on Twitter: “It delights me to think that what feels historical and amazing to us today—a woman sworn in to the vice presidency—will seem normal, obvious, "of course" to Kamala's grand-nieces as they grow up. And they will be right.”

The bells at Howard University, Kamala Harris' alma mater, tolled 49 times to honor the historic moment as she becomes the 49th vice president of the United States.

Residents of a tiny Indian village flocked to a Hindu temple, setting off firecrackers and praying as they watched Kamala Harris, who has strong roots to the village, take her oath of office and become the US vice president.

Groups of women in bright saris and men wearing white dhoti trousers watched the inauguration live as reporters broadcast the villager’s celebrations to millions of Indians.

The villagers chanted “Long live Kamala Harris” while holding portraits of her and blasted off fireworks the moment she took the oath.

Ms Harris was wearing clothes from two young, emerging black designers – a deep purple dress and coat. After taking the oath of office, a beaming Ms Harris hugged her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and gave President Joe Biden a fist bump.

Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary falls away, expanding the idea of what is possible in American politics.

But it is particularly meaningful because Ms Harris is taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated black and brown communities.

Those close to Ms Harris say she will bring an important – and often missing – perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the new administration.

Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and long-time friend and mentee of Ms Harris, said: “In many folks’ lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States.

"You will now have a black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world.”

Vice President Harris with her mother, ShyamalaThe White House
Vice President Harris with her mother, ShyamalaThe White House

Vice President Harris was born in Oakland, California to parents who emigrated from India and Jamaica. She graduated from Howard University and the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first came to Washington as a senator from California, where she had served as attorney general and as San Francisco’s district attorney.

She said previously: “My mother would look at me and she’d say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.’”