Before Inauguration Day, I was excited, but didn’t particularly think about Harris’ historic position. I wasn’t fazed when so many women ran for the Democratic nomination, nor when Kamala Harris was chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate. At this point, there are so many prominent and incredibly brilliant female members of Congress, governors, mayors, and other politicians, like Keisha Lance Bottoms, Muriel Bowser and Stacey Abrams, that it felt normal and inevitable to see women in positions of power.
So why did the sight of Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Emhoff walking up the steps into the Capitol make my heart soar and my chest tighten?
My two small daughters miraculously slept in, so I watched the beginning of the inauguration coverage by myself, quietly with a cup of coffee. This was a very rare moment, since I’ve been home with my five- and almost two-year-old full time for the last ten months. As the soon-to-be Vice President entered the Capitol, I wanted to wake up my girls (well, almost!) to explain to them what was about to happen.
And then I thought, wait. This is normal. This will be completely and utterly the norm for them. They will have to be taught that there was a time before a woman could be one of the most powerful people in the world. Just as being a lawyer is normal to me, and I had to be taught that there was a time when women couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get hired as lawyers. Just as voting was normal to my mom, and she had to be taught that thousands of women had to fight, march, and go to jail for her right to vote.
Like Vice President Harris, I am a Black woman. Like her, I am a first generation American with a father from the Caribbean. Like her, I am multiracial. And have Christian and Jewish relatives. And have Asian ancestry. And am a Californian. I am thrilled for Harris to be VP because she’s a woman of color. But more importantly, I am ecstatic for Harris to be VP, because she’s a badass negotiator who will get things done.
My girls woke up just in time to snuggle with me on the couch, watch Lady Gaga own the national anthem, Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman remind us about America’s trauma and promise, and witness Biden and Harris take their oaths of office. While my tears flowed and the moment felt surreal, my five-year-old asked me if Elsa from “Frozen” is real. I was brought back down to earth, to my living room, to my two little girls. Yep, this is totally normal. Nothing extraordinary. Just another day in which a Black, South Asian woman starts to rule the world.
MARISSA TIAMFOOK GEE “Totally Normal,” From the Lilith Blog, January 2021.