Born in Oakland, California to an Indian mother and Afro-Jamaican father, Kamala Devi Harris is the first woman of color to have been elected as the United States’ vice president. Having ran alongside president-elect Joe Biden, whose stance on race and other issues were frequently challenged by Harris during the early presidential primaries, the California senator has made history as the first female, black and Asian American vice-president.
Academically reared in law, Harris began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in 1990, before being recruited to the City Attorney of San Francisco office in 2000. In 2004, she was elected the 27th district attorney of San Francisco; a role she served until 2011, before going on to become the Attorney general of California in 2010, and once again in 2014. While she has faced criticism for her stance on structural issues such as overcriminalization, mass incarceration, and recidivism, Harris has been deemed the “safe,” and “savvy” choice, according to many political commentators including CNN’s Errol Louis and The Washington Post’s. Whether she will significantly alter the trajectory of Biden’s campaign is yet to be decided, but in the interim, here are five things you need to know about the 2020 vice president-elect, Kamala Harris.
She is the daughter of immigrants
Hailing from India and Jamaica, Harris’ parents arrived in the United States in the early 1960s to pursue careers in academia. With her mother going on to become a cancer researcher at UC Berkeley and her father, an economics professor at Stanford University, Harris was raised in Berkeley, California, along with her younger sister Maya.
She’s well-versed in criminal justice
While professionally well versed in the criminal justice system, Harris has found herself on the receiving end of tough criticism, both during her run for Senate and later, for president. With reformers questioning her motives following her work as a prosecutor during the era of mass incarceration, Harris’s record addressing police violence and criminalization has not always worked in her favor. Amid speculation of her nomination earlier in the year, Harris reached out to reform advocates, having participated in a virtual town hall with community organizers in the wake of widespread protests against police brutality. “To have those activists on the outside coupled with having some of us on the inside, that’s where I believe the beauty is,” she said at the town hall. “In the ability to actually force the change to happen against — and believe me — very powerful forces that are against that change happening.”
She once lived in Canada
While originally born in California, Harris spent much of her high school years in Canada, after her mother sought employment as a lecturer at McGill University in Montreal. Graduating from Westmount High School in 1981, Harris discussed her time in Canada briefly in a 2019 memoir titled” “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” where she elaborated particularly on her struggle to learn French.
She played a critical role in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings
During her time in the Senate, Harris adopted a firm stance on partaking in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, often posing sharp questions to a number of high profile appointees from the Trump Administration, most notably, the then-Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. During a series of 2018 hearings, Harris questioned the judge on his views of the historic ruling Roe v. Wade, which resulted in Kavanaugh refusing to respond. Gaining notoriety for her unrelenting approach, Harris became a critical figure in the ongoings of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
She loves to cook
Speaking to New York Magazine in 2018, Harris expressed her love for cooking, noting that she reads recipes as a way to unwind. “Everything else can be crazy, I can be on six planes in one week, and what makes me feel normal is making Sunday-night family dinner,” she said in the interview. “If I’m cooking, I feel like I’m in control of my life.”