On August 12, 2020, Democratic nominee Joe Biden announced California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate for the 2020 presidential election. As a member of the second class to integrate into public schools in Berkeley, and a mixed-race child of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, Harris’ nomination is undeniably historic. In a June 2019 debate during the primaries, she had a heated exchange with Biden, where she confronted him about his record with race. Biden announced his choice with a video highlighting Harris’ past, her achievements, and her plans for the future.
Harris grew up in 1970s Berkeley, just as the city began to desegregate schools. She attended Thousand Oaks Elementary School in North Berkeley, where she bused to and from her home in the flats of Berkeley. At the time, the flats had significantly more Black and Brown residents than the predominately white Berkeley hills due to racial redlining — the prevention of people of color buying homes in certain areas — in prior years.
Harris’ early experiences with race relations were incredibly formative for her. She has stated in the past that busing has shaped who she is today. “[Had busing been vetoed at the time,] I would not be a member of the United States Senate,” Harris said during the 2019 Democratic debates.
During the June 2019 primary debate, Harris highlighted Biden’s stance on busing as a way to integrate American schools in the early ‘70s, calling it an “asinine” policy. Biden responded by saying that he “did not oppose busing in America,” but “busing ordered by the Department of Education.” Biden did not immediately address Harris’ claims that he praised and sided with segregationist members of government in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Soon after, he addressed these accusations in a speech. “Was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men? Yes, I was. I regret it,” Biden said.
Biden and Harris’ platform, while progressive, is often still considered moderate compared to some other political stances. Their platform covers economic recovery, clean energy, support for small businesses, combating COVID-19, and more. They plan to extend support for people who lost their jobs and provide aid for businesses so essential workers that still have their jobs won’t lose them in the future. They also aim to have a “carbon-pollution free power sector by 2035,” as well as an “appropriate national emergency response to COVID-19.”
In her speech at Thursday’s Democratic National Convention, Harris spoke about her upbringing and family, and highlighted her goals for the future. “[ Biden and I believe in] a vision of our nation as a beloved community,” Harris said, “a country where we look out for one another, where we rise and fall as one, where we face our challenges, and celebrate our triumphs—together. Today, that country feels distant.”
She also discussed COVID-19, Donald Trump’s missteps, and racism and police brutality in America, highlighting the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. As Harris concluded her speech she stated, “Let’s fight with conviction. Let’s fight with hope. Let’s fight with confidence in ourselves, and a commitment to each other. To the America we know is possible.”