The first African American and Indian American to hold the nation’s second-highest office brings her legacy as a biracial woman who has experience as a prosecutor and Senator.
As Kamala Devi Harris took the oath as the vice president of the United States, she became the first woman, the first African American and the first Indian American to hold the nation’s second-highest office. It was a landmark moment. The significance of which couldn’t be erased by the events that took place at Capitol Hill the past two Wednesdays, which resulted in limited guests at the inauguration and the National Guard troops patrolling the venue and the streets of our nation’s capital.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Devi Harris’ inauguration heralded a new beginning for a country that is polarized and divided. People across the board were glued to their television sets with hope for better days ahead, a theme that was prevalent all through the day with the new leadership’s actions on day one as well as the spectacular concert that concluded the historic day.
But all eyes were on Harris, who broke all barriers for women, and women of color in particular, as she stood at the podium a little before noon on Jan. 20, and took the pledge of serving the nation. The person who swore her has also broken the glass ceiling. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic and Latina member of the court. There is no denying that Harris’ identity as a woman is an inspiration to women, young and old, to dream big, to unlock possibilities. As Harris’ Indian mother, Shayamala Gopalan would say: “Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.”
What Harris has never lost track of are the trailblazing women before her who have paved the path. And she’s done it not only in words but also in her fashion, and Inauguration Day was reflective of that.
Harris wore a purple coat and dress by the New York-based Christopher John Rogers of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Vanity Fair says purple is “historically associated with nobility, an original color favored by the suffragettes, and perhaps most notably, a metaphor for bipartisanship—red and blue together.”
According to CNN’s Abby Phillip, Harris wearing purple is “something pretty significant to her.” She explained that when Harris ran for president, “one of her colors of her campaign was purple and yellow. That is a nod to Shirley Chisholm who ran for president as a black woman decades ago and has inspired her political career.”
In the evening, during her address during the Inaugural Concert, the new vice president was seen in a black liquid sequin cocktail dress with a floor-length silk tuxedo overcoat, both by another Black designer – Sergio Hudson of South Carolina. She paired the outfit with Irene Neuwirth earrings. Both the ensembles were complete with Harris’ trademark strand of pearls, her nod to the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
What Harris brings to her new post is equally unprecedented. She brings the legacy of her immigrant mother and her late grandfather P.V. Gopalan; her large blended family and the legacy of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first intercollegiate historically African American Greek-lettered sorority. Harris also gives America its first second gentleman: Doug Emhoff, the son of two Jewish parents from Brooklyn.
Political pundits, news reports and experts have speculated that Harris’ term as vice president will be ground-breaking as well. Apart from her role as the Senate tie-breaker, it is believed that Biden will benefit from Harris’ prosecutorial chops, her energy and disposition. She will be under scrutiny for how she works in tandem with Biden. There will also be speculation about her own political aspirations. The New York Times reported that “given the speculation that the 78-year-old Mr. Biden may not seek a second term in office, Ms. Harris, who mounted her own unsuccessful 2020 White House bid, is sure to face scrutiny about her electoral future much earlier than did her predecessors.”
There is no doubt that in her new role Harris has a tough road ahead. But at the same time, there’s enough evidence and hope that she will deliver. After all, can we expect any less from a vice president who’s one of us?