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Kamala Harris Breaks Historic Barriers as New Vice-President. Black Women Put Her There.

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

November 8, 2020

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris gives her victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware on November 7, 2020 (from the Associated Press.)

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will become the next President and Vice-President of the United States declared the Associated Press early Saturday morning. The announcement came as the Biden-Harris ticket successfully clinched the state of Pennsylvania, surpassing the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to secure the White House. While Trump has refused to concede and continues to make claims of widespread voter fraud, he has thus far produced no evidence.

The Democratic victory in Pennsylvania was far from a certainty. Biden-Harris defeated the incumbent Trump-Pence largely thanks to voters in the population-dense areas surrounding Philadelphia. More specifically, Harris will become the first woman to hold elected executive office because of the black, female voters of Philadelphia.

According to exit polls conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, black women constituted just 4% of the electorate in Pennsylvania, however they supported a Biden-Harris ticket at a rate of 91%. This works out to a net gain of 231 920 votes for the Democrats – a number that far exceeds their 37 355 vote margin of victory in the state.

Further South, the story is much the same. The historically Republican state of Georgia remains too close to call, but seems likely to flip blue for the first time in nearly 30 years. Again black, female voters contributed a net gain of 734 821 votes for Biden-Harris; a number that is orders of magnitude greater than the razor thin 7 547 vote lead they hold at the time of writing.

In other key swing states of Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin, the pattern repeats itself. In every single instance, the net gain for the Democrats obtained from black, female voters exceeds the Democrats’ margin of victory in the state. Any way you cut it, a Biden-Harris victory would not have been possible without winning some combination of these five states. Any way you cut it, a Biden-Harris victory would not have been possible without the astonishing level of support they received from black, female voters.

Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, is not unfamiliar to breaking glass ceilings. In 2016 she became the first South Asian-American, and only the second African-American woman, to serve in the U.S. Senate. The significance of her new position, and the impact that minorities have had on her success, are not lost on her.

“(I am thinking) about the generations of women: Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation's history, have paved the way for this moment tonight,” Harris addressed to an enthusiastic crowd in her first appearance as Vice President-elect. “Including the Black women who are often, too often, overlooked, but so often proved they are the backbone of our democracy.”

This result comes on the heels of a summer that saw American racial tensions higher than they have been in decades. After the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Black Lives Matter demonstrations erupted across the country, occasionally even escalating to acts of violence committed by protestors, counter-protestors and police alike.

The reality is that if African American women were not as engaged in the political process as they are, or even if their support for Biden-Harris was anything less than a near consensus, Donald Trump would be a two-term president. As it stands, across the country, women of color voted in a way that condemned the last four years of American policy. They have scored a win for self-representation, and they have no one to thank but themselves.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” asserts Harris.

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