When Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris to be his running mate, he started a new chapter in the history of Black women, women of South Asian descent, and all women in the United States. It’s therefore cruelly ironic that as we prepare to celebrate her inauguration as our nation’s 49th vice president, we may also lose the lone seat held by a Black woman in the United States Senate.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has the power to appoint Harris’ replacement to serve out the final two years of her term. Newsom has faced pressure from all sides as he contemplates Harris’ replacement. Top contenders reportedly include California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the congressman Ro Khanna, congresswomen Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and state Senator Holly Mitchell. In recent days attention has focused on Padilla, Bass, and Lee, each of whom would be a history-making selection.
While much of the media coverage and analysis has focused on pitting Blacks and Latinos against each other, the political dilemma Newsom faces also represents the structural, cultural, and political issues that create a lack of diversity throughout the ranks of the Democratic Party as men and women of color must compete for a small number of open seats and opportunities that become available to move up the ranks in elected leadership.