When Kamala Harris became senator of California in 2017, I was 14-years-old. I couldn’t have cared less about politics at that point, as I was just trying to pass freshman biology, but I still remember the first time Harris came on my radar.
I’d just been picked up from school and was dozing off in the car when my dad turned on NPR. This was 2018, and Harris was grilling (now) Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, and uplifting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the process. While I always knew that it was substantially harder to be a woman, I’d never heard someone outright point this out to a man while sounding so confident. Looking back, I’m ashamed that I barely cared about Kavanaugh’s hearing and Harris’ role in it. Even though I didn’t know much about her, I knew that Harris was one of my senators in California. Hearing her intelligent line of questioning towards Kavanaugh filled me with immense pride because she was just like me: a Bay Area native, a child of an Indian immigrant and a woman.
I felt this same pride when Joe Biden announced Harris would be his running mate in the presidential election. I felt it again as I teared up during her victory speech, after long, brutal days of waiting for election results. As I watched Harris take her oath to office from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the only woman of color ever on the Supreme Court, I felt like I’d proved everyone who’d ever doubted me wrong. Someone like me was now the vice president.
However, with Harris now in the White House, it means that the almost 30 year streak of having two female senators from California is ending. Alex Padilla has replaced Harris’ position in Congress. While I’m proud that California now has its first Latino senator, I still have conflicting feelings. They are best summarized by St. Louis Representative Cori Bush: “[We] shouldn’t have to sacrifice our representation at one table to have a seat at another.” While there is a Black and South Asian woman in the White House, there are now zero serving as senators. That is something to mourn.
There are places around the country where women of color have never even had a seat. When I looked at the New York City mayoral race and saw that Dianne Morales, a progressive Afro-Latina, was running, I imagined the millions of women and girls who would be filled with pride that they could do that too. When former presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced he was running as well, my dreams were crushed.
Like Padilla, I don’t have a problem with Yang. I’m appreciative of the role he’s played in bringing universal income to the table of acceptable progressive policies. However, I don’t know if someone who has a net worth in the millions is the right person to represent New York City again.
When you compare Morales to Yang in terms of policy, there isn’t much difference. Morales is also a supporter of universal income, which she says is to be paid for by a wealth tax. Unfortunately, many likely haven’t heard of Morales because she is a real life New Yorker who doesn’t have millions of dollars to spend on a major presidential campaign. New York City needs someone who understands the struggles of living in one of the places hit hardest by the pandemic.
“It is my lived experiences as a single mother, my lived experiences as a woman of color, my lived experiences as a first-generation college graduate,” Morales stated in a New York Times interview. Simply put, she knows how to fight for the people of New York City because she’s one of them.
There are millions of hardworking people of color in New York City that make it the magical place it is. Morales is a champion for defunding the police, as well as advocating for affordable housing, universal healthcare, the Green New Deal and a long list of other progressive policies. I don’t doubt that Yang would do great things as mayor, but he will never elicit pride in the Black and Latina women across the country the way Morales would, or like Harris did for me. There’s a reason why New York City has never had a woman of color as mayor. It’s not because every man who has ever been mayor had better policies or the city’s best interests in mind. It’s because life is systematically harder for women, especially women of color.
I remember sitting on the couch with my Indian immigrant mother and hearing Harris famously quote her own in her acceptance speech: “I may be the first woman to hold this office. But I won’t be the last.” It’s a moment I will never forget. When I was listening to NPR in 2018, I never thought I would see a Black and South Asian woman in a higher office. Now that I have, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to accept anything less, especially when there are millions of women of color who have never dreamed of feeling represented that way, even at the city level.
If you agree with Morales’ policy and are a supporter of women’s rights and Black lives, then what’s stopping you from vocally supporting her campaign? Change starts with your vote and by examining the implicit biases that are stopping your voice.
Learn more about Dianne Morales here: https://www.dianne.nyc/ and https://www.instagram.com/dianne4nyc/
Learn more about getting involved here: https://www.dianne.nyc/volunteer and https://secure.actblue.com/donate/webste
Art by Naomi Desai