By Luca QUARONI, EEB4 S5 DEA
Starting a new chapter of American history, Kamala Harris was recently inaugurated as the 49th and incumbent Vice president of the United States, as the first ever female, black and Asian American, to hold the second most powerful position in American politics. But how did her upbringing influence her progressive political standpoint and what achievements preceded her major political success?
Born in Oakland, California on October 20th, 1964 as the oldest of 2 sisters, Kamala Devi Harris was the daughter of two immigrant parents. Her father Donald Harris, originally from Jamaica, was an economist and professor at Stanford University and her Mother Shyamala Gopalan, originally from India, worked as a breast cancer researcher. After Kamala Harris’s parents divorced in 1971, her mother became the primary care giver to Kamala and her sister Maya Harris, a lawyer and political commentator. Their family was very involved in political and civil activism, introducing Kamala to political and social issues from a young age, awakening and developing her sense for justice and equity. Throughout Kamala’s upbringing her mother raised her daughters to be strong independent black women, emphasizing on the power of their own voice and the ability to fight back when facing injustice. This is a skill Harris had obtained from a young age on, as being part of two cultural minorities wasn’t easy growing up, even though she grew up in a highly diverse neighborhood.
Harris received her first college degree from Howard University and later graduated at UC Hastings, College of the Law, where she received her law degree. At a 2019 rally in Iowa Harris sustained and justified her career choice as a prosecutor with the statement “I felt a very, and I still feel a very strong sense of responsibility to protect those who are vulnerable”. She started her career when 1990 she joined the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office as a deputy district attorney, specializing in the prosecution of child slavery.
Following in 2004 Harris was elected District attorney of San Francisco. Amongst her numerous major accomplishments, she established a social program which served as an initiative to reintroduce prisoners, who were first-time drug offenders, into society. Additionally, as a black prosecutor herself, she fought against racial inequality and profiling in the policing and justice system, and she advocated an anti-death-penalty movement. Yet under her leadership the conviction rate in San Francisco rose significantly, especially in minority neighborhoods, which resulted in a lot of public scrutiny that Harris was responding too tough on crime and that her ideas were to controversial and alternative. For instance, major distrust arose in 2010 when she prevented the release of 5000 nonviolent offenders. Furthermore, as DA she stood in defense of solitary confinement, in spite of the well-known toll it takes on mental health, resulting in the people questioning her values.
In 2010 Kamala Harris got elected to be California’s Attorney General, which made her the first ever woman and person of color to be elected for the job. Harris was referred to herself as “Top Cop” yet reportedly failed to fight police brutality in the state. None the less while in office, she fought against mortage fraud and homophobic legislature, for example by her fight against PROP 8, a political proposition with the aim of prohibiting same sex marriage, she emphasized her dedicated support of the LGBTQ+ Community.
Harris’s most recent political position prior to becoming vice president was Senator of California. She was the first ever Indian American to be elected to the U.S. senate. She wrote numerous bills on prison bail reform and immigration alongside bipartisan senator colleagues in this time. While in Congress, Harris worked on many issues such as on foreign affairs, the housing crisis and much more. In addition, Kamala Harris was prominently featured on the Senate Judiciary Committee, conducting many hearings with prominent figures such as Brett Kavanaugh.
After 2 years in the Senate, Harris announced she had launched herself into the 2020 presidential race herself initiating her campaign: Kamala Harris For the People. With her campaign Kamala advocated her progressive ideas and values with her extensive plans on health care, education, climate change, housing, etc. Initially she had gained much popularity, lending her solid chances of becoming the presidential candidate for the democratic party, but towards the winter of 2019 her campaign faced leadership issues as well as a lack of funding. In late 2019, Harris ended her campaign and endorsed Joe Biden.
Finally on August 11th, Harris accepted Joe Biden’s invitation to be his running mate and joined the Biden ticket. Both President Biden and Vice President Harris have committed to serve the American people with strength and resilience with the mission to unify the nation and by introducing and leading the United States into a new era.
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