Sen. Kamala Harris painted a vision of America that celebrated diversity in her historic Democratic National Convention speech. The senator from California, who made history when selected as Biden’s running mate last week, spoke live from Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday.
(The major political event was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.) Harris said she was “committed to the values” that her mother, an immigrant from India, had taught her.
“She raised us to be proud, strong Black women,” Harris said of her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who died of cancer in 2009. “And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage.”
Harris then spoke of a “vision passed on through generations of Americans — one that Joe Biden shares. … A vision of our nation as a beloved community, where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from or who we love.”
Harris also criticized President Donald Trump — who has a long, ongoing history of racism — saying that Americans “must elect a president who will bring something different, something better…. A president who will bring all of us together — Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indigenous — to achieve the future we collectively want.”
Harris, 55, is the second Black woman ever to serve in the U.S. Senate and is the first Black and first Asian American nominee for vice president by a major political party. If elected, she will also become the first female vice president in U.S. history.
A short video that played before Harris’ remarks Wednesday featured several Black women speaking about the senator, one of them describing Harris as “someone who can fight for Black people, brown people, undocumented people, LGBT people, disabled people.” It included a clip from an interview in which Harris said, “The litmus test for America is how we are treating Black women.”
Before Biden tapped her for the ticket, Harris was one of his rivals in the Democratic primary race last year. In one of the most powerful moments in the Democratic debates, Harris called out Biden for his collaboration with segregationist lawmakers early in his Senate career and for his opposition to busing to integrate schools. Harris said she herself was bused to school as a young student in Oakland, California.
But a few months after dropping out of the presidential race in December, Harris endorsed Biden and has since staunchly supported his candidacy.
Harris first appeared with Biden last week after she was added to the presidential ticket. Both she and Biden took aim at Trump, and Harris criticized the president’s “mismanagement of the pandemic.” “America is crying out for leadership, yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him,” she said.
Again on Wednesday, Harris called out how “Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.” The U.S. continues to lead the world in coronavirus cases and deaths, with over 5.5 million confirmed cases and more than 172,000 dead so far. Harris noted that Black, Latino and Indigenous people are “suffering and dying disproportionately” from COVID-19.
“This is not a coincidence. It is the effect of structural racism,” Harris said.
Harris opened Wednesday’s event with brief remarks calling out voter suppression efforts, including “obstacles, misinformation and folks making it harder for us to cast our ballot.” The senator’s statements come as Trump has been spreading lies about mail-in voting being “fraudulent” and undermining the U.S. Postal Service.
Democratic lawmakers have called the U.S. postmaster general, a Trump donor, to testify about recent changes in operations that have led to mail delays. These changes have since been suspended until after the election, as outrage grew around mailed ballots possibly not arriving on time to be counted in November.
“We need to ask ourselves, why don’t they want us to vote? Why is there so much effort to silence our voices?” Harris said Wednesday, urging all Americans to create a “voting plan.” “The answer is because when we vote, things change … When we vote, we address the need for all people to be treated with dignity and respect in our country.”
Harris explicitly spelled out where she was born: at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland. It appeared to be a subtle response to racist birther conspiracies spread by right-wing pundits and echoed by Trump, suggesting she may not be eligible for the office of vice president because of her parents’ immigration status when she was born.
There is no question of Harris’s eligibility. This is notably a continuation of Trump’s history of perpetuating birther conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama.
In Obama’s speech Wednesday night, the former president described Harris as his friend and as “someone who knows what it’s like to overcome barriers and who’s made a career fighting to help others live out their own American dream.”
Harris’s sister Maya Harris, who was chairwoman of Harris’s presidential campaign, introduced the vice presidential nominee, along with Harris’s niece Meena Harris and her stepdaughter Ella Emhoff, who called the candidate “Momala.”
“You’re showing my daughters, and so many girls around the world who look like them, what’s possible,” Meena Harris said.