What does the Biden/Harris ticket mean for Black Americans? It means history in the making, again. To start, Senator Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman to be nominated for the Vice Presidency by a prominent political party in a national election. Second, it is not her first time making history. Appointed U.S. Senator for California in 2017, Harris is only the second Black woman and first South Asian woman to be sworn in as a senator.
While her nomination was not met with fanfare from everyone in the community, it is vital that we, as Black people keep in mind the opportunity we have before us. Having a Black woman as the Vice President of the United States of America can open many doors for us as a community. It sends a clear and direct message to the world that we demand to have a seat at the table. More importantly, it sends the message that if we are not given a seat, we are more than capable of building a table for ourselves.
Many Black people took issue with Senator Harris when as the state’s Attorney General for California; she disregarded a Supreme Court directive to identify nonviolent offenders for early release. Harris and her office fought the directive in court for several years leading many in the Black community to believe that she favored keeping innocent people in jail. Prison reform is a hotbed topic in the Black community. We watch as our husbands, brothers, uncles, fathers, and the like are unjustly incarcerated for crimes they did not commit.
So understandably, when Senator Harris was nominated, it gave many of us pause. Will she do what is best for the Black community, or will it be more of the same? Black Americans do not want just a symbol of us in the White House; we want someone who will do the work. Someone who will get their hands dirty and make those hard decisions in the name of what is right and fair.
We must also understand that we play a huge part in this as well. The Biden/Harris ticket means that we have a chance to hold our Black elected official accountable; to demand that she fight for our rights. Black Americans must hold her responsible that she uses her position to get legislation written and passed that tackles the Black community’s unique issues. If you take issue with her political beliefs, do not let those issues stifle voting power. Do not cast an opposing vote in protest; rather, use your vote to move us forward with the backing power afforded us by the Biden/Harris ticket.
The Biden/Harris ticket means that we have a second chance to be in the room where it happens. We must not take this opportunity for granted. We have to turn out to the polls in record-breaking numbers and cast our vote for change. Black Americans cannot withstand another four years under the current administration, nor can we gamble our future on the shine of another celebrity. Our lives are literally at stake.
Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer living in Chicago. Follow her on social @beboldshineon.com.