‘No vaccine for racism’: Kamala Harris delivers message of inclusion in historic vice presidential acceptance speech

Sen. Kamala Harris, seeking to become the first woman in the White House, delivered a message of inclusivity Wednesday as she made history in accepting the Democratic nomination for vice president.

Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, said she wants a country “where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love.”.

“Today, that country feels distant,” Harris said on a live feed from a convention center in Wilmington, Del.

She extolled running mate Joe Biden as a leader who will bring people together.

And the California Democrat accused Trump of being a failed president who is costing “lives and livelihoods.”.

“Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons,” Harris said. “Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose.”.

Harris is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American person on a major party’s presidential ticket.

Harris was born in Oakland, California, to Shyamala Gopalan, a breast-cancer scientist who immigrated from India, and Donald Harris, a professor of economics who immigrated from Jamaica.

Harris said her parents fell in love “in that most America way,” marching for justice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

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“In the streets of Oakland and Berkeley,” she said, “I got a strollers’-eye view of people getting into what the great John Lewis called `good trouble.'”.

Harris said her mother raised her to be a proud, strong black woman – and also to be proud of her Indian heritage.

Before she spoke, former President Barack Obama called her an “ideal partner” for Biden who is more than prepared for the job as “someone who knows what it’s like to overcome barriers.”.

Harris talked about “structural racism” that’s become apparent in the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color and in the civil unrest sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police.

“There is no vaccine for racism,” she said. “We’ve got to do the work for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor and for the lives of too many others to name.”.

She addressed the virtual convention on a night that was both a reminder of the powerful force women have become in the Democratic Party – as well as the limitations they still face in breaking what Hillary Clinton described after her 2016 loss as that “highest, hardest glass ceiling.”.

Democratic women are galvanized:Kamala Harris seeks to crack glass ceiling in US politics.

Speaking earlier in the evening, Clinton said she knows something about the “slings and arrows” Harris will face.

“And, believe me, this former district attorney and attorney general can handle them all,” she said.

Clinton’s loss to Trump touched off a wave of activism, further stoked by the #MeToo movement, that fueled Democrats’ capture of the House in 2018.

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Like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also spoke Wednesday, Harris was part of a record number who ran for the Democratic nomination for president.

Harris ended her campaign in December, before any votes were cast, after she struggled to settle on a campaign theme and did not put together the coalition of Black supporters who ultimately secured the nomination for Biden.

One of her campaign’s biggest moments came during a debate when she called out Biden for opposing federally mandated busing to integrate schools while he was in Congress.

Harris’ own background, as a prosecutor, was viewed critically by criminal justice reform advocates.

And she didn’t stick to a consistent position on health care, an issue of top concern to Democratic voters but one that divided them as the party debated how much to push for without jeopardizing their chances of beating Trump.

Harris, 55, was a rising star the last time she spoke at a Democratic National Convention, in 2012. She’d become the state’s first female attorney general the year before.

In that position, she developed a friendship with Biden’s eldest son, Beau, who was Delaware’s attorney general. Harris and Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015, were among a small group of attorneys general pushing for a tough settlement from five major banks accused of foreclosure abuse.

“I took on the biggest banks, and helped take down one of the biggest for-profit colleges,” she said Wednesday. “I know a predator when I see one.”.

In 2016, Harris was elected to the Senate where she gained a reputation as a dogged questioner. She clashed with Attorney General William Barr over his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and applied her prosecutorial skills during the confirmation hearing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

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“She was extraordinarily nasty to Brett Kavanaugh,” Trump said, after Harris’ selection was announced.

With much of the nation still getting familiar with Harris, Wednesday night included humanizing moments, such as references to Sunday night family dinners of stir fry or spaghetti and meatballs for three generations of the blended family she’s made with entertainment lawyer Doug Emhoff.

Stepdaughter Ella Emhoff said Harris will always be “Mamala – the world’s greatest stepmom.”.

Harris’ younger sister, Maya, who was her campaign chairman, called Harris her “partner in mischief.”.

“Growing up, heaven help the poor kid who picked on me because my big sister would be there in a flash ready to have my back,” Maya Harris said in an introductory video.

Maya Harris’ daughter, Meena, said her “auntie” served as a role model for smart, strong, ambitious women.

“Now that I’m a mom,” Meena Harris said, “you’re showing my daughters and so many girls around the world who look like them what’s possible and what it’s like to move through the world as fierce, formidable, phenomenal women in their own unique way.”.

Contributing: Bart Jansen, USA TODAY.

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