A Black woman, an Indian American woman is going to be Vice President of the United States.
A woman who was reared in California and Canada.
A woman who graduated from a Historically Black College and University.
A woman whose “nontraditional” name has been mispronounced over and over and over.
She’s going to be the Vice President.
And her name is Kamala Harris.
I was on a video chat with my cousins when the news was delivered. Sitting under the leaves that are left on our Dogwood tree, I was deeply engulfed in a conversation that flowed from talking about food, Christmas plans and kids to a dissertation, a staycation and nominations.
As the call was nearing its conclusion, my mother burst out of the house, fumbling over her words as she attempted to share her excitement. After five long days, the major news outlets were finally projecting former Vice President Joe Biden to be President-elect, which meant Harris would be Vice President-elect.
Immediately I shared the news with my cousins as we all rushed to end our call. Happily, I dashed into the house to plop in front of the T.V. where I saw in bold letters history-making statements. The dream we had been praying would come true, had.
Soon, my aunt would join us at the house. Watching this history-making news unfold with two of the three most influential black women in my life was like living a dream. We sat in awe looking at the TV. We shouted praises. And we danced to Philadelphia natives Boyz II Men’s “Motownphilly” in celebration of their home state delivering the victory for the Biden-Harris ticket.
But when everything in the house calmed down hours later, what I expected to feel wasn’t there. Instead, the feelings that bubbled up left me uneasy and shocked.
I felt blah.
I didn’t feel much of anything.
There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of joy. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of peace. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of hope.
What I did feel was that we had been here before. Although a minority woman hadn’t risen to the ranks of the second most powerful person in the world, I had seen minorities, especially Black women and men, continuously shatter glass ceilings that didn’t always result in change for the rest of us.
When Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968, my people still were subjected to racism, injustices and inequality. When retired four-star General Colin Powell became the first Black Secretary of State, my people were still subjected to racism, injustices and inequality. When former President Barack Obama was elected to the highest office in our country, my people were still subjected to racism, injustices and inequality.
So, does it really come as a surprise that during one of the largest uprisings targeting racism, bigotry and police brutality that excitement flows amid cautiousness? Not really. But for me, that’s surprising.
I’m an optimist.
Even when circumstances look bleak, I find that sliver of hope. Yet, I struggled to find it yesterday as it shined so brightly through my TV screens, on my Twitter feed and in my text exchanges.
I knew I was living in an historic moment in time. However, it was hard not to push aside all the chaos that continued to manifest itself daily. Black, unarmed bodies still lying lifeless at the hands of armed, white cops. Prisons overflowing with Black bodies. Morgues keeping Black bodies that succumbed to Covid-19 on ice.
So much calamity all around that it almost felt like celebrating the present was a slap in the face to those who needed us in the struggle. I had expected tears to fall at some point. As a Black woman, I know the expectations for us are elevated to a level that we’re always sure to overcome despite the opposition positioned to try and stop us along the way. To see someone who looked like me, on a stage, raising her hands in victory as she’s poised to become our next Vice President, would’ve normally produced a flood of water flowing from eyes.
It didn’t happen yesterday.
But today, I couldn’t stop them.
I simply said to myself – “What’s wrong with you? Where is your hope? Where’s your joy? Why, in this moment, are you letting it be snuffed out?”
I thought of all the things I just wrote out and said to myself, “That’s not an excuse. And it never will be.”
You see, hope is about seeing the reality of the situation even if you are hurting. Celebrating history doesn’t signify that I’m negating what’s going on in our country. It identifies the fact I can be cognizant of both. I can be hopeful in the moment while remaining hopeful that we can improve upon it. I can be hopeful today while remaining hopeful to see a day where this type of win becomes the norm. I can be hopeful today while remaining hopeful a minority woman taking reins of the vice presidency will usher in a movement that will produce the changes so many of us have yearned to see come to fruition for decades.
I’m certain it can happen.
And I hope I’m alive to see it.
Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart is a freelance writer.