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The Story Of Kamala Harris & Her Impact On The Community

The election recently ended and the citizens of the United States elected Joe Biden as our 46th president and Kamala Harris as our Vice President!

Although Biden will be president, the spotlight was on Kamala for the communities of color as she is the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian American to be the Vice President of the United States!

It was a proud moment! Although, we don’t feel like she is the best as her record isn’t sqeaky clean. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, keep reading!

But before we dive into the reservations the Black community has about Kamala Harris, let’s talk about who she is and how her upbringing molded her into who she is today!

Where is Kamala Harris From?

Kamala Harris with her parents, Donald Harris and Shyamala Gopalan.
Kamala’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan (left), Kamala Harris (middle), Kamala’s father, Donald Harris (right) Source: ABC News

Kamala Devi Harris was born in Oakland, CA on October 20, 1964 to Shyamala Gopalan(mother) and Donald Harris (father).

Her mother, a biologist, came to America in 1958 from India and attended U.C. Berkley where she met Harris’ father, Donald Harris who was an economist from Jamaica who was pursuing a graduate degree.

Although her parents came from two different cultures and races, they bonded at Berkley over something that they both could relate to – basic human rights. 

During the time they met, the civil rights movement was happening and was very active on campus. Her parents bonded over this and eventually got married. 

Kamala and her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Source: Joe Biden Campaign

Sadly, they ended up divorcing when she was young which led to her mom raising her and her younger sister Maya on her own. 

They lived in a predominantly Black community in West Berkeley where her mother made sure to show both of them to embrace their two ethnicities by attending both a Baptist church and a Hindu temple. 

On a daily basis, she was interacting with Black neighbors in her community, but Shyamala also made sure to have the girls visit their relatives in India. 

Therefore, she was raised to appreciate both of her identities and with her mother raising her, her South Asain side of the family played a big influence for her and her sister. 

Particularly, her grandfather and grandmother were very influential in what her values were and pushed her to make a change as her grandfather was a diplomat fighting for Indian independence and her grandmother was an activist for women’s rights. 

Kamala stated in her autobiography, The Truths We Hold, that her mother knew she was raising two Black daughters. 

In the book Harris said, “She knew that her homeland would see Maya and me as Black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident Black women.” 

Alongside that, it is clear that she gets a lot of her power and ambition from her mother. Not only did she vocalize to both of them they need to “stop complaining and do something about it”, but also was a role model of what a powerful woman looked like. 

Fun Fact: Maya Harris went on to become a lawyer, a political analyst, and was one of three political advisors for Hillary Clinton during her presidential run in 2016!

College Life

Following high school, Kamala Harris attended the infamous Howard University, a prestigious HBCU in Washington, D.C. where she majored in political science and economics. 

During her time at Howard, she immersed herself into Black culture by attending protests, joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, leading the debate team, and joining the Liberal Arts Student Council. 

Kamala Harris and a friend at a protest at Howard University.
Kamala Harris (right) protests South African apartheid with classmate Gwen Whitfield (left) on the National Mall in November 1982. Source: LA Times

It was when she ran for freshman representative of the Liberal Arts Student Council where her journey truly began. 

It wasn’t the basic dynamic of a student council on a predominantly white college campus where they voted for small things like food trucks, more water fountains, and student festivals. 

At Howard, they discussed REAL issues happening in the country and the world and brainstormed ways they could help. 

She has repeatedly shown how much pride she takes in being a Howard Alumna and it is refreshing to see that she fully embraced and took advantage of the opportunity. 

Fun Fact: While she was attending Howard, the children of civil rights activists Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young were also there! 

Kamala Harris ended up graduating in 1986 and immediately returned to Northern California to start law school at the University of California Hastings College of Law. 

There she also made sure to immerse herself in Black culture by becoming the president of the Black Law Students Association. 

She graduated from law school in 1989 and started to prepare for the California Bar. Harris actually failed her first time, but then passes her second time in June 1990!

What Did She Do?

After passing the bar, Kamala Harris:

  • Became a district attorney in Alameda County in California focusing on child sexual assault cases 
  • Became San Francisco’s District Attorney, making her the first Black woman to hold that position
  • Started a program to give first-time offenders a second chance to earn a high school degree and get a job 
  • Became the California attorney general in 2011 making her the first woman, first Black person, and the first South Asian to hold this position
    • She served two terms as the California attorney general
  • Won the senator election in November 2016 making her the second Black woman and the first South Asain-American to hold this position 
  • Announced her run for the presidency in January 2019, but withdrew in December due to a shortage of funds
  • Was chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate in August 2020 making her the first African American and first South Asian American to be a vice-presidential nominee
  • Was elected as vice president of the United States on November 7, 2020

“But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last.” 

-Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is the first woman to be in the office, but also the first African Amerian and the first South Asian American! 

She has made history and one of the most memorable things she mentioned in her speech was, “But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last.” 

Of course, she also paid homage to her Black roots and her Indian roots; showing pride and honor because she was against the odds and still made it. 

She made history! 

Why Kamala Harris Being Elected Is Bittersweet For The Black Community

If you have been following the election, you may have noticed that the Black community isn’t as excited as they were when Obama got elected. 

She’s making history just like Obama, so why wouldn’t the Black communtity stand with her 100%? 

Well, it turns out that she has a dark past as prosecutor and attorney general.

Below I will list off the actions she took that have put her in a bad light in the Black community:

  • Failed to hold officers and prosecutors accountable for robbing inmates of their right to a fair trial 
  • Declined the bill that would require officers to wear a body cam at all times 
  • Advocated for the policy that would prosecute parents for their children being absent from school regularly 
  • Refused to advocate for Prop. 47 that was built to reduce low-level felonies to misdemeanors
  • Appealed the action of abolishing the death penalty in California 
  • She opposed a bill that would lead to more thorough investigations on police-related shootings
  • Took advantage of small details (a.k.a. technicalities) that would keep those who were wrongfully convicted behind bars and denied them new trials to give them a fair chance 
    • George Gage is the case that most know about where he was charged for sexual abuse against his stepdaughter. He never had a criminal record before and after being convicted, there was evidence that proved his innocence, but Harris defended the conviction based on a small technicality and she won. He was given a 70-year sentence and is still in prison today. 

There are many more stories like this that she has come in to contact with and has sent them to prison on death row. 

Other examples are the convictions of Daniel Larson, Johnny Baca, and Kevin Cooper. 

All of these policies that she has advocated for naturally target low-income areas and communities of color.

Source: Politico

This makes it seem like she is not trying to uplift these communities and has made a lot of people despise her. 

What she has done is horrible and she has ruined the lives of many people, many of who don’t even deserve to rot behind bars.

Although, she didn’t only do things to hurt communities that she grew up in.

So, I wanted to also highlight a few positive actions she took while she was in power in California. 

I am not trying to undermine the pain she has caused, I feel for every person that her policies have affected.

But I also think it’s to look at situations through a different lens because you may hear or see something that you would have missed before. 

Here are some policies she advocated for that had a positive effect:

  • Advocated for the system to favor rehabilitation over punishment and wanted to abolish the tough on crime policies
  • Refused to give a man the death penalty due to the murder of an undercover police officer 
  • Started a program for first-time offenders to get their charges dropped by going to school 
  • She advocated and enforced implicit bias training 
  • Ordered for rape kits to get tested to decrease the overload of kits that were ignored
  • Helped pass a bill that outlawed the “gay panic defense” which people used in court to say that someone’s sexual orientation provoked their violence
  • Advocated for legislation that would reform the police force following George Floyd’s death

Of course many will see the negative side of situations first and will argue that the negative outweighs the positive.

In this case, it could be true, but what’s so wrong with giving people second chances? 

During her race with Biden, they have both stated they are trying to do right not only by the people, but also will stand up for the Black community. 

At this point, all we can do is take their word for it and hold them accountable.

If they can’t show us in the next four years that they are about action and not all talk, then we have the power to get them out of office just how we did the orange man. 

So, allow Kamala Harris to write her wrongs and to show us that she means well.

Of course, she should start by releasing many of the people she has wrongfully convicted, but let’s just watch and see how she plans to show us. 

I hope you found this article insightful and learned something new about our new Vice President, Kamala Harris! 

Leave a comment down below of your thoughts on Harris and please feel free to fact check me on any of the information I provided! I am always striving to share 100% facts! 

Also, if you enjoyed this article, remember to share it on your socials and also check out other articles like it here!

Kamala Harris is breaking barriers as the first woman in the office, so here are a few facts that you should know about her!

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