Kamala Harris looks like me and that makes all the difference

Kamala Harris looks like me and that makes all the difference


“We did it Joe. You’re going to be the next president”, a buoyant Kamala Harris shared her phone call with Joe Biden on social media this morning.

With a clear lead in Pennsylvania, Biden had secured enough electoral votes to defeat Donald Trump; reported by US news outlets in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The result leaves America with a pathway out of brewing civil unrest; heightened in the days since Wednesday when Donald Trump claimed the election to be “fraud”.

Footage of Americans embracing tearfully, waving pride flags and Black Lives Matter banners as they celebrated in the streets have been shared everywhere.

While mobs of Trump supporters have likewise erupted angrily at the news, Biden and Harris have vowed to restore calm and unity in a country heavily divided.

“The purpose of our politics, the work of the nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to improve the lives of our people,” Biden appealed to his country just prior to the result being called.

But as well as shift the dynamic of policy and politics in the US and across the world, the election result has achieved something else remarkable: It’s given intercultural girls everywhere, including me, an invaluable role model.

Not only is Kamala Harris the first woman to be elected Vice President, she is the first black and South Asian woman to reach that pinnacle. She has shattered barriers which have kept mostly white men at the top of American politics for the past two decades and proven what is possible against the most polarising of contexts.

In her victory speech on Sunday, Harris spoke of the milestone and sent a powerful message to girls everywhere.

While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” she said.

“Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message. Dream with ambition. Lead with conviction.”

But while countries like America and indeed Australia purport to celebrate multiculturalism, it’s far from reflected in the highest echelons of business, media or politics.

One in every four Australians was born overseas. Yet in politics? people of non-English speaking backgrounds account for fewer than 20 of the 226 parliamentarians in Federal Parliament.

As “a little brown girl”, I’ve always been politically engaged. I’ve always felt strongly about certain issues and looked for people and parties which aligned with my core values. But the urge to hit the snooze button on successive governments and representatives who look nothing like me or my family has been compelling. I suspect I’m not alone.

Kamala Harris’ appointment turns a long, tired and rigid status quo on its head.

“She will be a perpetual reminder not to neglect the forgotten base”, Tera W. Hunter a professor of history and African-American studies at Princeton University told Politico. Words that define exactly why this result is so significant.

Kamala Harris’ election gives hope that the issues which matter to everyone, not just one homogenous group, will eventually be realised. She’s proof that difference and diversity is valuable and that the pathway will be easier for intercultural women of the future.

(This election also makes the pathway easier for Kamala Harris to end up the next president– the first female and intercultural president– after Biden.

It’s a giant step into another realm.

It’s not true that you can’t be what you can’t see. Of course, theoretically, you can. But it certainly makes it a whole lot harder, and a whole lot more daunting when there’s no one at the table that looks like you.

Kamala Harris looks like me. She looks like millions of other women across the world who have felt, at least in some sense, on the outer their entire lives. And while that might not seem consequential, it makes all the difference.

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