Change Through Kamala Harris
Vice President Elect Kamala Harris' election has brought a newfound pride for some women and people of color.
History was made on Nov. 7 with the election of Kamala Harris as Vice President of the United States of America. Since, the pivotal milestone of her victory has been celebrated in across the country. Amongst members of the Furman community, Kamala Harris’ achievement as the first female and POC to be elected vice president has already begun to make an impact on how other POC can see themselves. Members of the Furman community who identify as either POC and/or women reflected on how their perception of Harris’ identity influences their perception of the magnitude of her success, as well as how it will influence their involvement on or off-campus.
Cassidi Dozier is a junior politics and international affairs major who identifies as a woman and a POC. Dozier was moved by the fact that Harris was “raised by an immigrant, single mom, [later]attended an HBCU, [and] is a minority woman.” Dozier believes that “the[magnitude] of [Harris’] success fits the American Dream. She defied the many odds [that] normally [impacted people of] her background, so her success is phenomenal.” Regarding her own future during and beyond her time at Furman, Dozier stated that Harris’ success “will impact my perseverance to keep trying even when I want to give up...there are so many amazing things I can achieve. Her success paints that picture that keep[s] me inspired.”
Another member of the Furman Community reflected this sentiment. This anonymous student was moved that “[Harris] attained an incredibly ambitious position within a system that oppresses both women and minorities.” This Paladin said she was “inspire[d] to advocate for myself and remind[ed] that I deserve a seat at the table. I will continue to be involved and stand up for myself as a woman.”
Tanea Miller is a junior psychology and philosophy major at Furman University. On the topic of Harris’ success, Miller said she “deem[ed] [Harris’] magnitude of success as pretty high. Especially as a POC and woman. And it’s honestly empowering.” Miller, a woman and POC, was inspired by her newfound role model, saying she is “more willing to be involved on campus in a politically active way.” Similarly inspired to be politically involved, Chloe Sanderson, a freshman at Furman, said that she is “very inspired by the fact that she is our first female VP and also happens to be a POC. I consider her success to be heightened by her identity...it’s important for those to go hand-in-hand because it helps those who identify with her to know they can accomplish things like she has accomplished.”
Echoing Sanderson’s sentiment, senior communications major Tityanna Watts stated, “I think Kamala Harris has multiple identities... being a [woman who is both] Black and Indian. She has spent her life fighting a battle to be included in conversations that generally aren’t meant for us (women and POC).” Watt’s analysis of Harris’ success also included an astute observation of Harris’ character: “I think her success speaks to her character and strength to combat people and systems who were hindering her from succeeding. Seeing her in that position of power will encourage me and give a drive to use my voice...in places that I normally wouldn’t.” Sarah Feingold, a senior biology major at Furman who, like Watts, is inspired to increase her political presence on Furman’s campus, said, “It will definitely make me work harder, [and] be politically active and informed, which is something that I purposefully avoided beforehand.” Harris’ election as VP amazed Feingold not only because of the challenges that Harris faced but also because of the fact that she “did it all without having a non-male-identifying vice president to look up to.” Feingold continued: “Our generation will be so much better off having people like [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and Kamala to look up to[because] we know it can be done, but they didn't necessarily have that.”
The common sentiment for these students is the appreciation for Harris’ achievements relative to one’s own potential for success. The election of Harris as VP not only showed the nation that women and POC belong in the top tier of our government, but also reminded others facing the same hurdles she did that their potential is greater than their challenges. Harris provides many students on campus with an example of how to break social standards in order to realize the extent of one’s true potential. Many of the students interviewed noted this freedom to expand their horizons and found motivation to participate in areas they had previously avoided.
It is safe to assume that Harris' victory could cause an influx of representation of gender, race and sexual minority groups on campus in areas that were once reserved for the dominant voice. The impact that Kamala Harris has made on this country will reverberate in the foundations of Furman’s future. Now more than ever before, marginalized members of the Furman community are aware that they possess the power of change. With the motivation of Harris’ success, many minority students feel more empowered than ever.