For decades woman activists and academics have advocated for equal rights:
· The right to vote
· The ability to work outside the home
· The possibility of staying single or marriage
· To study more than just teaching and nursing
· Graduate as an engineer, science, and another career considered masculine
· Participate in politics be a lawmaker and congresswoman.
As a result of these battles, women have won increased rights and access to opportunity, leading to greater autonomy in society. Women have made history; however, these achievements have not always been well received.
This year commemorates 100 years since white women from across the United States could vote. Later, due to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which removed many discriminatory voting practices, Black and Indigenous women around the country won the right to vote. Despite having the right to vote there has never been a female President or Vice-President.
On November 7, 2020, the news was finally official. The United States elected Joseph R. Biden as President and Kamala Harris as the 49th Vice-President (VP). Since the United States’ creation, there have been 48 Vice Presidents, and all were white men.
Vice-Presidents have all been European descendants, including: slaveholders, grandchildren of slaveholders, abolitionists, segregationists, Protestant Christians, defenders of patriarchy, conservatives, Catholics, moderates, Republicans, Democrats, but all 48 were men.
The arrival of Kamala Harris as Vice President is not only symbolic but historical. Kamala is a woman, a mestiza woman, with a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, identified as an Afro and Asian descendant in a country that rejects mix and blackness.
She was born at the end of segregation and the beginning of the integration process. She knows firsthand about discrimination, not only for being a woman but for being a woman of color in a society that values and measures you not only for your professional career but above all for your skin color.
Kamala is not white. She is not a descendant of Europeans, which breaks the mold that has guided the United States. VP-elect Harris’ election is symbolic in addressing the white supremacy ideology and patriarchy preached by the powerful for centuries.
Kamala said, full of hope and much honesty “I may be the first woman to hold this office. But I won’t be the last.”
Today we have the first female, black, and Asian American vice president in the United States. In reading numerous comments from white women on social media, it is clear that the sting and hurt from the loss of Hillary Clinton in 2016 is still very much present.
Has the loss from 2016 lead to paralysis to celebrate other women’s accomplishments? Perhaps some women believe having a woman as the 2nd place on the ticket is only “second best.”
This reaction of hurt – pain – suffering does raise my suspicion as it tracks incredibly well with what Robin DiAngelo writes in White Fragility in terms of why some white people find it hard to talk about racism. I imagine that for many white women and feminists, the work in building bridges and opportunities perhaps was not intended for women of color to cross over first.
Maybe it is also the shock that the daughter of immigrants, a mestiza and color woman, is the one who broke the patriarchal mold of white male Vice Presidents; and laying the foundations for women in the future. Not to mention that the VP-elect Kamala Harris might run and potentially become the first female president of the United States.
Are white women ready to support Kamala Harris as the VP of the United States?
Yenny Delgado (she/her/ella) Social psychologist and contextual theologian and member of the Board of Interwoven Congregations. She writes about the intersections between politics, race and faith.