“What are you?” A question I constantly have tried to find a correct answer to growing up. My appearance next to my Caucasian mother would often collect second glances from others in the grocery store, at restaurants, or even school events. Once, I had a doctor who apparently did not read my chart before coming in the room, who suggested a course of action he thought best for “Hispanic women.” I should clarify, I am a half-Caucasian and half-African American woman. This is why, on November 7th, I ugly cried as Kamala Harris was confirmed as the first female to be elected vice-president—a woman of color elected to the second-highest office in the nation.
For the first time in my life, and American history, a woman who I look like￼ would be walking through the White House as a leader. The best way to describe my feeling is numbness. I was not sure that what I heard or saw was reality. What I felt and understood was that America accepting Kamala Harris as vice president meant also accepting me as a person. Don’t get me wrong — as an African American woman, I was happy to say I had an African American president for eight years of my life. However, if the last four years taught me anything, it’s that representation matters. In 2016, American admonished Hillary Clinton largely on her sex. For example, an elected leader retweeted the comment, "If Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?" though he later deleted it. Newscasters constantly attacked Secretary Clinton on how she spoke, stating, “[W]hen Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, 'Take out the garbage.’” Let’s call it what it was . . . America was unwilling to vote for Clinton because she is a woman—period. Michael D’Antonio said it best, “Powerful women aren’t given much leeway. Express a little emotion — any emotion — and you risk being written off as unserious. Show too little, and you’re a bitch.”
Women are tired of this rhetoric. That is why November 7th was such a milestone. Day after day, women are kept away from high-ranking professional positions. Frankly, America has struggled to leave the 1940s with regard to women. As an African American woman, I know that when I state a contrary position, my challenge is undermined and sidelined as coming from “an angry Black woman.” I know that my opinion is often not valued. If you work at an office, you should be seen and not heard, and when you do speak, it should be at a volume indicating timidity. These are things women worry about daily, so when then-candidate Kamala Harris repeatedly told Vice President Mike Pence during their 2020 campaign debate, “I’m speaking,” I rejoiced.
One of the last glass ceilings shattered when Harris gave her victory speech as the first female vice president elect in United States History. A woman, nay, a woman that looks like me, made it. She and I may disagree on some fundamental things, but her role, her face, and yes, her gender, make my daily struggle a little easier.
Electing Harris does not wipe away years of discrimination, struggle, misogyny, or hatred. There is so much more work to be done; but for now, it is nice to know that we are heading in the right direction. As our next vice president said, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.” So, to answer the question, “What are you?” I am whatever I want to be.
Alexandria Hopson is a 3L at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Alumni Liaison for the Student Bar Association, member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Advocacy for Reproductive Justice Committee, recipient of the Lawyers Club’s Women in Law Scholarship, and self-proclaimed wine connoisseur.