When I interviewed Vice President–elect Kamala Harris last year at the Essence Festival, she had plenty of wisdom to share about the challenges a Black woman faces when pursuing national office. “Some might think that breaking barriers means you start off on one side of the barrier,” said Harris, who was running for president at the time, “and then you just turn up on the other side of the barrier. No, there’s breaking involved. When you break things, it’s painful. You get hurt. You may get cut, and you may bleed.
“It will be worth it, but it is not without pain.”
That last sentence captures the essence of Harris’s journey to the historic achievement of being the first Black woman, and the first South Asian woman, to be elected vice president. To get here, Harris—whose parents immigrated from Jamaica and India—had to endure some pain.
Aside from a few brief flashes of hope, the California senator’s presidential campaign never gained any real momentum. Critics picked apart her record as a prosecutor and an attorney general. Before the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, chose her as his running mate, some party operatives complained that she was too ambitious and questioned whether she was a good fit. President Donald Trump pushed a birther falsehood about her. After her first debate with Vice President Mike Pence, Trump referred to her as a “monster” and “unlikable.”