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Harris changes American idea of a leader

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris campaigning in Iowa in 2019. (YJI)

Clarksburg, Maryland, U.S.A. – When Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced that California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, I didn’t really know what to think.

There was a woman of color as a major player on the ballot, running for vice president of the United States.

Seeing Harris on the ticket made me believe in representation. But I was also very skeptical.

Having a prosecutor whose mistakes were so vehemently publicized as the vice-presidential pick for the Democratic party was confusing.

Did I want someone responsible for the incarceration of innocent people to be a major leader in our country? Will having Harris as a vice-presidential candidate undo all the gains of the Black Lives Matter protests?

Sen. Kamala Harris at a New Hampshire campaign event in February 2019.

If there’s anything I learned from these past few days, it’s that politics is muddy. We can’t label a person as good or bad based on a few incidents. Instead, we should look at the overall impact of having a person in office.

And Harris is making huge waves – most of them overwhelmingly positive.

For a while, I believed that Biden choosing Harris as his running mate would take away from the gains made by Black Lives Matter protests. She was a prosecutor who was criticized for being hard on minor crimes, which were disproportionately skewed towards people of color.

I fell into the trap of “Kamala is a cop.”

But after talking to my mentors and other people directly exposed to today’s political landscape, I realized that my mindset was the opposite of what I claimed it was.

I said wanted a country where people were judged on who they are now, not who they were before, but I was speaking against an Indian American and African American woman constantly fighting for the rights of people of color and speaking for equality.

With Harris on the ballot, the American idea of a leader is becoming more diverse and representative of the country.

Harris has used her massive platform to amplify the voices of black people and people of color. She’s pushed for the defunding of the police, promising to reimagine public safety. She called for arrests in the March killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, an unarmed black woman shot and killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky home.

Harris made mistakes for sure, but looking at our election in the coming months, I believe that we don’t need a perfect person – we need a person ready to create change.

Do we really want to tear down a woman so committed to reforming the oppressive systems in our nation?

And because our presidential elections are between two different duos, I had to take a long hard look at our current president and his last four years in office.

Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigning in Iowa in 2019. (YJI)

If I was willing to go after Harris on her past as a prosecutor so quickly, shouldn’t I have also dug into the history of her opposition? What I found didn’t take a lot of digging.

Our election is between two people, and it’s choosing the better to lead our country, and the current president has said and done many problematic things that directly attack people of color and other minorities, without any clear plan to change that.

Harris has publicly acknowledged her career as a prosecutor, addressing concerns and making it clear that she was working towards creating an America where people were treated equally and fairly.

President Trump is very different. The commander in chief has made sexist comments against women, used the National Guard to deter peaceful protests, defended white supremacists and Confederate statues, and is continuously working to getting rid of the nation’s environmental protections.

Why do we attack Harris for being a prosecutor, when the leader of the country is consistently hurting his own people?

If anything, these past months of campaigning and Biden’s announcements about his vice-presidential pick have been transformative.

Trump and Pence, or Biden and Harris?

I have been thinking a lot about what I believe in, and I know that I believe in equality. I believe in kindness and freedom.

I am a child of immigrants and a girl of color. I know what major leaps our country has made, and I know that there’s a lot we need to work on. I strongly believe that having Harris on the ballot will push us in a better direction.

Sreehitha Gandluri is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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