Kamala Devi Harris is the current vice-president-elect of America, making history as the first woman to hold such an office. In addition, she becomes the first Asian American and black person to occupy in the position. Harris officially began serving the public after completing her college education where she embarked on her law career, rising to the rank of the state attorney general (AG) in 2010 (Norander, 2017). She entered the political arena in 2016 and clinched a seat in the U.S. Senate, setting a record as the first South Asian American and second female black American to serve in congress. In 2019, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Harris declared her interest in vying for the presidency in the 2020 U.S elections. She would later drop her ambitions to become Joe Biden’s running mate (Weil, 2019). In November 2020 elections, the duo emerged as winners after facing stiff competition from the incumbent president Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence (Norander, 2017). Biden and Harris are expected to bring a new style of leadership for the betterment of America and its citizenry.
Kamala Harris’s early life has played a significant role in shaping her careers both in law and politics. She was born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California (Weil, 2019). Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, had arrived in America from India in 1960 to study her doctorate education in endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley. Similarly, her father, Donald J. Harris, had emigrated from Jamaica in 1961 to pursue a doctorate in economics at the same school (Weil, 2019). During this period, Berkeley was the center stage for protests organized by the U.S. civil rights movements and immigrant parents. Harris was brought up in a predominantly black neighborhood of Berkeley by highly educated parents. Typically, she was raised in a family that was characterized by political activism. She and her sister, Maya, accompanied her parents in stroller street demonstrations and civil rights marches. Her grandfather, P.O. Gopalan, joined forces with Gandhi and successfully fought for India’s Independence from Britain (Weil, 2019). Harris adopted liberal ideas of social justice at a tender age and grew up with the conviction that it is service to others that gives meaning to life.
Harris’s quest for service to humanity can be traced back to her childhood. Having been an infant, during meals, her mother would ask her what she wanted, and cluelessly, Harris would shout “Fwee-dom” (Norander, 2017). Shyamala taught her that individual success was determined by a person’s willingness to help others achieve their ambitions. In addition, her mother inculcated political consciousness in the two siblings by constantly reminding them that systems should be fought in a manner that makes them fairer. After the ratification of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, most American cities started desegregating schools (Norander, 2017). Before then, schools in wealthy areas were a preserve of white children, while those from black American families attended academic institutions located in their poor neighborhoods. As part of Berkeley’s integration program, Harris spent her Kindergarten life being “bussed” to Thousand Oaks Elementary School, a predominantly white public school in an affluent northern Berkeley neighborhood (Harris, 2019). In this way, she was able to observe educational inequality at a young age, further fueling her commitment to social justice.
Harris’s parents filed for divorce when she was 7 years old. Shyamala would later accept a teaching and research post at Canada’s McGill University where she enrolled Harris at the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, a French-speaking primary school, before transferring her to F.A.C.E school in Montreal (Norander, 2017). She then attended Westmount High School in the same city where she graduated in 1981 (Weil, 2019). In 1982, Harris returned to the U.S. to pursue her bachelor’s in political science and economics at Howard University. This institution held a long-term reputation for being historically black (Norander, 2017). While at the University, she led the debate team and chaired societies within her learning faculty. Moreover, Harris held an elective position at the liberal arts student council (Norander, 2017). In 1986, she completed her degree from Howard with honors in political science and economics (Weil, 2019). Afterward, she joined the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Harris continued portraying her leadership prowess by serving as the Black Law Students Association’s president. In 1989, she finished her law education with a Juris Doctor.
In June 1990, Harris was admitted to the California Bar where she commenced her duties in the post of the district attorney (D.A) in Almeida County. After four years of service, she was appointed to two consecutive commissions; Unemployment Insurance Appeals and California Medical assistance boards (Harris, 2019). In 1998, Harris was promoted to head the Division of Career Criminals, where she supervised five attorneys (Willon, 2016). In that capacity, she prosecuted robbery, sexual assault, burglary, and homicide cases. In 2000, she moved to the division of Family and Children Services in San Francisco, where she represented child neglect and abuse cases. At that time, she was working under the supervision of Louise Renne, the city’s attorney, who endorsed her for D.A of San Francisco (Willon, 2016). In 2002, Harris ran for the post against three other candidates and successfully managed to convince the Central Committee that she was the best. After voting was conducted, she won with 56% and went on to become the first African American to be elected as San Francisco’s D.A (Weil, 2019). In 2007, she ran for her second term and passed unopposed.
During her tenure as the DA for San Francisco, Harris was praised for making numerous achievements in the city’s justice system. Under her jurisdiction, conviction rates are reported to have risen from 52% to 67% (Willon, 2016). Crucially, she went ahead to invent a new crime category referred to as truancy for punishing parents who failed to take their children to school. The main idea behind this misconduct was based on the fact that the lack of basic education among offenders was one of the key contributing factors to their involvement in crime (Harris, 2019). Harris has been one of the strongest believers that America has failed to invest in the education of most children despite there being a close link between truancy and involvement in a crime. Furthermore, she championed the rights of the LGBTQ community by creating the Hate Crimes Unit to prevent violence against teens and children in schools.
In 2010, Harris declared her bid for the office of California’s attorney general (AG). However, she had stated that she would only vie if Jerry Brown, the AG at the time, did not go for a second term (Harris, 2019). Fortunately, Brown opted for a gubernatorial seat and she was able to consolidate support from influential California Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the State’s senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (Willon, 2016). She ran for the post against Los Angeles County’s DA, Steve Cooley, who vied as an independent candidate. During polls, Cooley predicted his defeat and conceded before the final tally, making Harris the winner of California’s AG elections. On January 3, 2011, she was sworn in, making history as the first South Asian and black American to serve in the capacity of AG in the entire history of the state (Harris, 2019). She ran for a second term in 2014 and was re-elected with 57.5% (Norander, 2017). The victory enabled her to further demonstrate her leadership capabilities within California’s legal system.
During her tenure as California’s AG, Harris continued making numerous contributions to the state’s justice system. Notably, she introduced robust regulations on consumer protection against fraud and abuse (Norander, 2017). For instance, it is reported that Harris obtained two substantial recoveries in the history of California’s False Claims Act; $323 and $241 million from the SCAN healthcare network and Quest Diagnostics respectively (Weil, 2019). Moreover, she joined forces with Senate president Darrell Steinburg and Assembly Speaker John Perez to draft the Homeowner Bill of Rights, which has been recognized as the most solid protection against oppressive foreclosure techniques. Additionally, Harris is credited with guaranteeing the privacy rights of mobile applications users (Norander, 2017). In 2012, she reached an agreement with various technology companies including Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft to ensure that they develop privacy policies that inform users about the firms’ usage of their private data.
Harris continued to use her capacity as the AG of California to fight for environmental protection and enhance law enforcement procedures. Importantly, she successfully secured $44 million to compensate for all costs and damages connected to the Cosco Busan Oil leakage (Willon, 2016). Between 2015-2016, Harris was able to secure multi-million-dollar compensations from fuel service corporations such as Chevron, Phillips 66, and BP for the retail of hazardous gasoline in various Californian gas stations. In terms of law enforcement, Harris introduced a police training approach known as “Principled Policing: Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias” (Norander, 2017). This technique incorporated the services of Stanford University professor and psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt to aid in rebuilding trust between the community and police officers. under the leadership of Harris, California’s Justice Department was the first American state agency to mandate its police force to wear body cameras (Willon, 2016). Furthermore, she introduced a new state regulation requiring all law enforcement agencies to gather and publish data on the number of people shot or seriously injured by police officers.
Harris declared her interest in national politics in 2016 after California Senator Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she would not seek re-election. From the commencement of her campaign, she remained the top contender (Weil, 2019). In the same year, the State of California had adopted a new top-two primary approach for its Senate elections. In this format, the candidates who emerged as the first and second in the primaries were supposed to go for the general election irrespective of the party (Norander, 2017). At the primary elections, Harris won the vote of the California Democratic Party with an overwhelming majority, guaranteeing her financial aid from the alliance. This victory made her cement her popularity across the state, including being endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown (Weil, 2019). In the general elections, Harris ran against another Democrat Loretta Sanchez, defeating her with 60% of the total vote tally (Weil, 2019). After sealing her victory, she vowed to protect the rights of immigrants against potential infringement by the policies created by then-president-elect Donald Trump.
During her tenure as a senator, she was a notable opponent of Trump’s regime and held various political positions. In March 2017, she openly faulted Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions as the U.S. state attorney citing that he had relations with the Russian ambassador to America, Sergey Kislyak (Willon, 2016). In June of the same year, Harris attracted nationwide media attention for questioning both Rod Rosenstein, deputy AG, and Sessions on their role in the firing of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in May 2017 (Norander, 2017). She was appointed to the Judiciary Committee of the Senate in 2018 after AI Franken’s resignation. In May of that year, Harris grilled Kirstjen Nielsen, Homeland Security Secretary over the Trump regime’s policy on family separation, where alien children were separated from their parents upon illegal entry into the U.S (Norander, 2017). After going to one of the detention camps, she was among the first senators to call for the Secretary’s immediate resignation. Apart from being a member of the Judiciary Committee, she exercised congressional duties in the Budget Committee, Intelligence Select Committee, and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
In the remaining two years of her office, Harris did not relent in criticizing Trump’s administration. In 2019, after a report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller suggested evidence that Russia had interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections, Harris summoned U.S. A.G. William Bar to explain the matter (Weil, 2019). Barr appeared before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate on May 1, 2019, and asserted that he had not reviewed the evidence presented against President Trump in the report. Harris demanded his resignation on account that his responses did not reflect the position he held in Government. In 2020, she was among the prominent figures that were behind Trump’s impeachment trial. On one occasion, she aired her opinions on the Senate floor claiming that nobody is above the law, including a serving president. She voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment on charges of Congress obstruction and abuse of power.
Path to America’s Vice President
Since 2018, Harris was considered among the top potential frontrunners and contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. In the same year, she published her memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey”, which is an indication of a probable run (Harris, 2019). By January 2019, she had officially declared her candidacy for the U.S. president in the 2020 presidential election (Weil, 2019). This announcement attracted overwhelming donations from her supporters, making a record equal to that of Bernie Sander in the 2016 elections. According to police approximations, Harris’s official campaign launch occasion was attended by more than 20,000 Americans (Norander, 2017). After Biden’s landslide victory in the Democratic primaries, he chose Harris as her preferred running mate. This was a historic announcement across America as Harris became the first Indian American, the first black person, the third woman after Sarah Palin and Geraldine Ferraro to be chosen by a major political party as a vice-presidential nominee.
Harris’s path to the second-highest office in America became a reality once they sealed their defeat against Trump and Pence. After confirming their victory, Harris was documented phoning Biden, telling him that they had done it and that he was going to be the next President of America. Upon their inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2021, Harris will become the first woman to occupy the office of vice president in American history. Also, she will make history as the third person of non-European origin to serve in the highest position of the executive arm, after former president Barrack Obama and Curtis.
Harris is married to Doug Emhoff, an attorney with who they share a background in the legal profession. Before their marriage on August 22, 2014, Doug was husband to Kerstin Emhoff, a film producer, with whom they bore two children (Norander, 2017). Today, Harris serves as a stepmother to the two children (Weil, 2019). She is a Baptist and a multiracial American with Indian and Jamaican roots.
Honors and Awards
Harris’s service to humanity has earned numerous honors and awards. In 2005, she was given Harris the Thurgood Marshall Award by the National Black Prosecutors Association (Weil, 2019). In 2006, she was presented with Howard University’s Outstanding Alumni Award for her extraordinary work in public service and law disciplines (Harris, 2019). In 2010, Harris was identified by a New York Times article as a woman with a likelihood of becoming U.S. president, stressing her personality as a “tough fighter” (Harris, 2019). In addition, California’s most popular newspaper, Daily Journal, ranked Harris among the top 75 women litigators and to 100 lawyers in the state (Weil, 2019). Such recognition points to the fact that she deserves to be America’s second in command.
Harris, K. (2019). The Truths We Hold: An American Journey. Penguin Press.
Norander, S. (2017). Kamala Harris and the interruptions heard around the internet. Feminist Media Studies, 17(6), 1104–1107. Web.
Weil, E. (2019). Kamala Harris takes her shot. The Atlantic, 5, 47–56. Web.
Willon, P. (2016). 8 Things to Know about Senate Candidate Kamala Harris’ Career Gold Stars and Demerits. Los Angeles Times, 183, 1–12. Web.