Growing up as a South Asian American, I viewed my identity in this country as an anomaly. Throughout my childhood, I lived in predominantly white neighborhoods and as a person of color, I always felt like my existence was an enigma to not only others, but myself. This sense of dysphoria within me became especially apparent when I moved into one of the most conservative townships in my state.
I had very specific experiences in middle school where people would ask me about my background and where my parents were from. When I said they were from Chennai, I knew it felt far away to them. India – and my experience as an Indian-American – felt far away from them. The disconnect that many of my peers had towards my Indian identity caused me to eventually see that part of myself as unimportant and irrelevant. In many ways, I thought that being a woman of color was a hindrance growing up. Our voices felt quiet and our power felt imaginary.
Today, Kamala Harris proves that a woman of color’s power is anything but imaginary.
For both South Asian and Black women, Harris’s presence in the White House leaves us without any doubt that our voice and our opinion can be just as loud as the voice and opinion of the white men that we learned about in history, and I’m content with knowing that, for many impressionable young girls of color in America today, Kamala Harris’s presence in the second-highest office can save them from some of the dysphorias that I felt as a child.
In high school, upon writing an article about the lack of diversity in our school district, many parents in the school community complained that I was insulting the learning environment that they put their children in. What’s even worse is that I found the reaction to be predictable. Currently, the majority of people of America are white anyway, so why does it matter?
It matters because Americans who are people of color like myself are constantly told that we don’t belong here, that we don’t belong in the very country that we were born and raised in. Vogue calls this out in their cover interview with her. “Weeks after we talked,” Alexis Okeowo writes, “I thought of the Harris rally back in Bethlehem before Election Day, when the Trump-supporting protesters turned their attention to Harris’s motorcade as it pulled out of the venue. ‘You don’t belong here!’ one woman shouted.’”
Women of color, especially, grew up in a world that made us believe that elected officials who looked like us were a thing of our imagination – side characters in our own society. For me and for many others, Kamala Harris has refuted that belief for good. The moment Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President was a moment where history looked us in the eyes and said, “No. You do belong here.”