Sen. Kamala Harris has been sprinkling black girl magic up and down Capitol Hill during her first year as the second black woman ever elected to the US Senate. My friends and I, who are all D.C. bound to Howard University in the fall, often find ourselves discussing how hard Senator Harris is fighting for the causes that are very close to our hearts as young black women, and also how badly we would love to see her run for president in 2020.
Another lesser known fact about the rising political superstar is that she graduated from The Mecca that is Howard University. During her time at Howard in the 80s, Harris was extremely involved on the yard as a double major in political science and economics, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., a member of the debate team and successfully running for her first office as the freshman class representative of the liberal arts student council. She also delivered Howard's 2017 commencement address. As an incoming freshman, hearing Sen. Harris speak about issues directly related to me and my future classmates and how "Howard shaped, nurtured and challenged" her to soar is especially important to me, and having her as an example of what it means to be the living, breathing product of such a prestigious historically black institution fills me with pride and confidence as I prepare to attend Howard in the fall.
“At a time when there are Americans — disproportionately black and brown men — trapped in a broken system of mass incarceration ... speak truth — and serve. At a time when men, women and children have been detained at airports in our country simply because of the God they worship … speak truth — and serve. At a time when immigrants have been taken from their families in front of schools and outside courthouses … speak truth — and serve. And at a time of incredible scientific and technological advances as well … when we’re dreaming of a mission to Mars … and unraveling the mysteries of the brain … and entrepreneurs in my home state of California are even starting to test flying cars ... speak truth — and serve."
This week Sen. Harris made headlines after now twice enduring heavy criticism and interruptions at the hands of her GOP colleagues sparked by her fiery style of questioning key witnesses during the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearings regarding Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. On Tuesday during Attorney General Sessions testimony, while pushing Sessions to address the question that she was asking him, Harris was chastised by Sen. John McCain and the committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr for not allowing Sessions to answer the question. A former Trump campaign adviser even described her strong line of questioning as "hysterical." Despite the criticism, Harris has tons of support on the left to persevere and stay strong. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon attested to the fact that Sen. Harris was singled out most likely because of her gender, race or possibly a mix of both by tweeting that he and Harris both asked tough questions but she was the only one who was interrupted for doing so.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and many others have also come out in support of Sen. Harris in the wake of all of this disrespect that the senator has been on the receiving end of.
Seeing Sen. Harris stand up and stand out for what she believes in only inspires me more to fight for my beliefs so that I may too one day affect change. For 14 years in my highly conservative hometown of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, I was surrounded by kids who held strong Republican beliefs just because they came from deeply Republican families. I was forced to take a stand for my progressive beliefs at an early age as one of few progressive students and until high school the only black girl at my almost all white college preparatory school.
I can identify with her experiences in the Senate because I endured those same micro and macro aggressions growing up with oppressive people. I can recall my first taste of racism the summer before I entered pre-k, when my mother decided to host get-together with the other moms and kids who were entering pre-k and one of the girls refused to be my friend because in her words, "people who look like you and people who look like me just aren't supposed to be friends with each other." After this, I always had a sense that I was viewed by others in a different light than my classmates. Even this year as a senior on the track team at the same school, a white woman assumed that because I was a black girl who attended this prestigious, historically white prep school that I must have been poor. I can still recall asking her, "do we have to pay for our senior posters?" to which she immediately responded, "oh if you can't pay for it don't worry about it." All I wanted was a yes or no.
Currently, Kamala Harris is the only African-American woman in the upper house of congress, which means that she is the only person out of 100 representing the whole nation who knows first hand what its like to be a black woman in America, and witnessing Sen. Harris fighting to be heard on the hill has been awe-inspiring for me and other young Americans who want to affect real change in the country for the better of all.