Kamala Harris Means More to My Daughters Than Obama
The vice president affirms my daughters’ dreams in ways no man can
One November night in 2008, I found myself with a house full of crying guests.
It’s not like the evening wasn’t festive. There was gumbo and chicken, cake and wine; we chatted and enjoyed each other’s company, even while we waited for the pivotal moment to arrive.
And then it happened: A Black man was elected president. He wouldn’t be just the president of the United States — he would be our president.
I didn’t even know most of my guests that night. I was relatively new to my suburban neighborhood and invited everyone nearby who I thought would share my pride. I’m not talking just any pride. I mean Black pride. The pride tinged with the anger and resentment of 400 years of America’s subjugation of Black people.
I knocked on the doors of my daughters’ Black classmates. I tapped on the shoulders of Black shoppers I saw at stores, Black neighbors I saw on tennis courts. If they were Black, they were invited. For the purposes of this celebration, all lives didn’t matter — only the Black ones.
I approached them with the confidence and privilege of our shared commonality and belief that surely they felt the importance of the moment as I did. It was too big to experience alone.
I wanted my daughters to feel it, too. They would never truly appreciate its gravity if it were just another family night watching the news.
Only the ascension of a Black woman could empower them at this magnitude.
Although my house was filled with tearful guests as the race was called for Obama, my daughters didn’t cry. With dry eyes, they saw Barack Obama become America’s 44th president. Through my not-so-dry eyes, I saw him become our first. And with a house full of crying guests, I explained to my bewildered daughters that America had never done such an audacious thing. I told them that our guests were sobbing because they thought America never would.
Now, 12 years later, when I watch Vice President Kamala Harris, I see my Black daughters.
I see them in Harris in a way I didn’t that night in 2008. When Obama became America’s 44th president, he became America’s 44th male president. Despite the magnitude of the moment, I couldn’t entirely affirm my daughters’ hopes. I couldn’t point to Obama, Blackness notwithstanding, and say to them that they too could rise that high. Only the ascension of a Black woman could empower them at this magnitude.
Historically, Black women have raised America’s children along with their own. By their reliable vote, they are still raising America’s children. They are still nurturing America’s ailing. Bill Clinton may have signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, a bill twice vetoed by George H.W. Bush, but Black women gave him the pen. Obama may have signed the Affordable Care Act — his signature accomplishment — but once again, his pen was given to him by Black women.
America is in a far better place because of Black women. They have gotten to set America’s table without getting to sit at it. Although devalued politically, they still rise, as Maya Angelou once said.
But before Vice President Harris’ rise, there were significant limitations. Black women fought hard to break glass ceilings. It afforded a clear view to watch others, often less deserving, rise higher and faster. They were important only insofar as their power empowered others.
Last November, I watched Harris become a heartbeat away from being my daughters’ POTUS. Though my daughters don’t understand all of the historical baggage, they feel its weight. Harris helps to lift that weight and affirm their hopes in a way no man ever could.
Unlike that big November night in 2008, there was no gumbo, chicken, cake, or wine when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the presidential election. There was no small talk about passing the time — there were no guests at all.
Just one dad sitting alone on a couch.
Yet, still, he cried. He cried. He cried.