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What You Should Know About ​Biden's VP Pick, Sen. Kamala Harris

For starters, it's pronounced 'Comma-La'.

Politics

We are in the home stretch and less than 90 days out from Election Day. Between 2020 giving us pandemics, racism, and a questionable economy, the girl has outdone herself with the surprises this year. Needless to say, the very fabric of our livelihood depends on the outcome of this election. No matter where your politics may lie, being an informed voter is paramount.

After the recent Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his Vice President running mate on this year's ticket. With this historic nomination, Sen. Kamala Harris will be the first woman, the first Asian-American and the first Black Vice President of the United States if elected. It has been said that Harris' mother once said, "You may be the first to do many things. Make sure you are not the last."

Whether or not you choose to vote Biden/Harris, this is truly a historical moment that will create a wave for change going forward into the future. So here is what you should know about Sen. Kamala Harris:

  • Kamala Devi Harris was born October 20, 1964, in Oakland, CA to Donald Harris and Shamayla Gopalan Harris. Sen. Harris' parents are both immigrants, her father from Jamaica, and her mother from India.
  • Sen. Harris has one younger sister, Maya Lakshmi Harris. Maya is a powerhouse in her own right as an American lawyer, public policy advocate, and television commentator.
  • Donald Harris was an economics professor and Shamayla Harris was a physician. Her parents met during their time at UC Berkely.
  • After she graduated from high school, Harris attended Howard University. Which, if you did not know before, is one of the most prestigious historically Black colleges in Washington, DC. It was here that Harris graduated with a BA in political science and economics. She also joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority Inc. while attending Howard University. Following up on her undergrad career, Harris earned her law degree at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, J.D., in 1989.
  • To keep her children close to their Indian heritage, Shamayla gave them names that were a nod to their roots. Kamala means "lotus" and is also another name for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.
  • Sen. Harris has spoken about the fact that she was bused to her elementary school. In fact, in the first grade she was bused to Thousand Oaks Elementary School. This school was early on in the integration process and she spent the next three years being bussed from her predominantly black, lower-middle-class neighborhood to a white school district.
  • As a child, Harris was able to embrace both her South Asian and Black identities. Her mother made sure her daughters attended both a Black Baptist church and a Hindu temple.
  • Currently, Sen. Harris is married to her husband Douglas Emhoff who is an entertainment lawyer. They were married in 2014 making Harris a stepmom to Emhoff two children, Cole and Ella.

What you should know about Sen. Kamala Harris’ political career:

​1990-1998:

During most of the 90s, Kamala Harris served as Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County, California. It was during this time that Harris earned her reputation for being "tough" in cases such as gang violence, drug trafficking, and sexual abuse. In 1998, Harris was named managing attorney of the Career Criminal Unit of San Francisco District Attorney's Office.

2004-2016:

From 2004 to 2011, Harris served as District Attorney of San Francisco. She became the first Black woman elected as San Francisco's District Attorney. During her time as District Attorney, Harris created a program to provide first-time drug offenders second chances. They also were able to have an opportunity to earn a high school degree and find a job. In 2010, Kamala became the first Black woman to be elected California Attorney General, overseeing the country's second-largest Justice Department, only behind the U.S. Department of Justice.

In this position, Harris managed a $735 million budget while overseeing more than 4,800 attorneys. Also while being California Attorney General, she fought for families and won a $20 billion settlement for California homeowners against big banks that were unfairly foreclosing on homes. During this time, Harris published her book, Smart on Crime: A Creer Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer. Harris later went on to serve as Attorney General of California from 2011 to 2016.

2017-Present:

Sen. Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2016 and began her first term representing California on January 3, 2017. She was the first Indian-American to serve as a U.S. senator as well as the second African-American woman. Since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, Harris has introduced and co-sponsored legislation to help the middle class, increase the minimum wage to $15, reform cash bail, and defend the legal rights of refugees and immigrants. Harris is on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and also on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In 2019, Sen. Harris released her a second book, a memoir, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, as well as a picture book, Superheroes Are Everywhere. January of that same year, Sen. Harris announced her bid to run for President in the 2020 elections. This was followed up in December 2019 with the Senator dropping out of the race and putting her support behind Joe Biden. On August 11, 2020, Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate for the 2020 Presidental elections.

Where does Sen. Kamala Harris stand on the issues?

Healthcare:

Harris has expressed mixed messages on the issue of healthcare. There have been many questions surrounding where Sen. Harris stands as far as "Medicare for All". What we are clear on is that Sen. Harris has spoken about underserved communities during the pandemic and she has also spoken to maternal mortality. In July 2019, Harris unveiled a different kind of healthcare platform, "KamalaCare", that would expand Medicare without ending private insurance. This platform was thought to be splitting the difference between Sanders and Biden.

Immigration:

During her presidential candidacy, Harris advocated for several things: using executive powers to reinstate and expand the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Also, creating a clear path to citizenship for Dreamers brought into the U.S. as children.

Consumer Protection:

While being California Attorney General, Harris' role in securing a $25 billion settlement for California homeowners from big mortgage firms confirmed hef stance as a consumer advocate. Harris' record included prosecution of predatory lenders, protections for those drowning in student debt, and being tough on online consumer privacy issues.

Policing/Criminal Justice:

Harris has called for reforms to address racism in the criminal justice system during her presidential candidacy. This platform included an end to private prisons and mandatory minimums, legalizing marijuana, and abolishing the death penalty and solitary confinement.

Education:

Harris introduced a plan that proposed canceling up to $20,000 in student loans for borrowers who started a business in a poor community and maintained it for three years. This was very different than most of her opponents who wanted to cancel student loan debt altogether.

Climate Change:

Over that last few years, Harris has taken a stance on addressing climate change and environmental justice. She endorsed the Green New Deal and in September, Harris released a climate plan that allocated a $10 trillion investment in a clean-energy transition over the next ten years. Harris and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez introduced a plan for legislation that would ensure that new environmental bills be evaluated based on how they impact frontline communities.

If you want to find out more about where Sen. Harris stands since accepting the nomination, tune in to the Vice Presidential debate on October 7.

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Featured image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

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