If there were ever a case to be made for a born activist, it’s Kamala Harris. The daughter of renowned activist and breast cancer researcher Dr. Shyamala Harris, she attended civil rights protests with her parents while growing up in Oakland in the 1960s. When she was twelve and living in Montreal, Harris successfully organized a protest against her family’s apartment complex management’s policy forbidding children from playing on the grassy courtyard.
After attending Howard University for her undergraduate degree and UC Hastings College of Law, Harris started on a path of public service, working in San Francisco’s District Attorney’s office. She held the office of District Attorney of San Francisco from 2003 to 2011, and was then elected as California’s Attorney General in 2010. Harris broke ground from day one: She was the first woman and first African-American to ever hold that office.
Her accomplishments as Attorney General directly reflected the change she always wished to see from when she was a child, “…surrounded by adults marching and shouting for this thing called justice.” She gave a voice to the marginalized and vulnerable. She took on transnational human and drug traffickers. She won $20 billion for homeowners after the housing and mortgage crisis. She fiercely protected consumer privacy from ever-encroaching technology.
On November 8th, 2016, Harris was elected as the first new California Senator since 1992, and continues to fight for the rights and welfare of citizens. She currently sits on four senate committees, and has published Op-Eds on issues including the gender wage gap, increasing transparency on the American Health Care Act of 2017 and the importance of defending Title IX. She uses her position to bring attention to issues that are most important to American citizens, especially those with the least amount of power.
Never was this more apparent than in recent Senate Intelligence Hearings, where Harris was interrupted, talked over, and shushed not once, but twice while asking questions of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. It wouldn’t be fair to say this is a strictly feminist issue, that she was talked over due to her gender, just as it would be unfair to say it had nothing to do with her gender, that her fellow Senators just wanted to move along in their line of questions. Regardless of the motivation behind these interruptions, Harris is now receiving national attention as a pioneer, an ally and an important fixture in our country’s future.
For starters, she’s using these interruptions to aid her allies: anyone can donate to the campaigns of ten female Senators, excluding herself. “It’s happened to me, Elizabeth Warren and countless others,” Harris wrote on the fundraising website. “Too often women are silenced in society and in the Senate. Make a contribution to defend the women of the Senate and fight back.” Literally lemonade out of lemons. Harris stands up when she is told to sit down. She is the role model young men and women need to see defending their rights and holding an unjust system accountable.
Her election to the Senate signifies her importance to the future of the country and was noteworthy for two reasons. First, she was the second African-American woman ever elected to the Senate. Equal representation does not just matter for election districts; it matters to the people who feel ostracized, out of place and voiceless when they cannot see themselves in the leadership of their own country. Second, she was the first new Senator since 1992. She is not afraid to stand up against established status quos and fight for change when it is vital.
Harris uses her power and the privilege of her position to amplify the voices of those oppressed by systemic injustice. She is an advocate for the vulnerable and overlooked; she is direct, poignant and holds others accountable for their actions, both in and out of the courtroom. Only eight months into her tenure as Senator, Kamala Harris represents a promising future for political activism and inclusivity.
More information about Kamala Harris can be found here.