Posted on November 9, 2020

Why Kamala Harris Could Become an Unapologetically Black Vice President

Erika D. Smith, Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2020

For the first time in American history, we will have a vice president who looks like me — Black like me and a woman like me.


As Joel Goldstein, law professor emeritus at St. Louis University and an expert on the vice presidency, told my colleague Melanie Mason this could be “the first time in American history that the election of the vice president would be more historic than the election of the president.”

Harris went from being the first Black woman to serve as California’s attorney general, to being the second Black woman to serve as a U.S. senator, to being the first Black person, the first South Asian American and the first woman to serve as vice president. {snip}

But if you think you know what’s coming next based on eight years of watching the Obamas shatter ceilings, trust me when I say that you don’t know the half of it.

When Harris takes the oath of office in January, expect it to be unapologetically Black. I’m talking about Black Lives Matter flags and T-shirts up and down the National Mall, assuming we get a break in the pandemic long enough to have an inauguration along the lines of what we’ve had in the past.


And pink and green — expect to see so many Black women in pink and green, the colors of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the historically Black sorority that Harris joined while attending Howard University.

Don’t be alarmed when most of these women, her sorors, start screaming “skee wee.” It’s the way AKAs greet each other, and it will reverberate so loudly and at such a high pitch that you’ll swear it will shatter whatever glass ceiling Harris has left untouched. {snip}


When Barack Obama was elected president that year, he had an impossibly fine line to walk simply because he was the first. He was forced to fit into a box to succeed, a Faustian bargain if ever there was one. {snip}


But what’s different for Harris in 2020 than for Obama in 2008 is that Americans are just more used to seeing Black people be unapologetically Black.

It’s the logical byproduct of years of constant trolling by Trump, and a series of existential crises that have pushed Black Americans to the brink. Gone are the niceties when demanding the reform of police departments that continue to kill Black people disproportionately or when demanding help for a pandemic that also is disproportionately killing Black people.

As we’ve fought back, public support for Black Lives Matter has soared. We aren’t as restrained in public as we used to be, which, in turn, has created space for Harris to be her full self in public, to embody all of her identities and feel less of a need to code switch.


“I’m Black, and I’m proud of being Black,” Harris said last year on “The Breakfast Club.” “I was born Black. I will die Black, and I’m not going to make excuses for anybody because they don’t understand.”

This is what progress looks like.