On January 20, 2021 the first WOMAN was sworn in as Vice President of the United States. It was an historic day. One I thought I would never see in my lifetime, especially after Hilliary Clinton was beaten by Donald Trump in November of 2016. I had all but lost hope that we’d never see anyone other than white, straight men, in the highest offices of the land.
I wept as I watched Kamala Harris, dressed entirely in purple, a “women’s studies color” take the oath of office.
And then it hit me. One hundred years ago, white feminists like me, told Black women that they could not be included in the fight to secure the right to vote. White women feared that white men were reluctant enough to give them (their wives, sisters and daughters, I might add) the vote that they definitely weren’t going to support a movement to enfranchise women if Black women were included. White women rationalized that their own suffrage was more important than that of their Black sisters and they forged ahead, leaving Black women behind. Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, once close friends, parted ways after that. The damage was done.
In a turn of fate, 100 years after white women secured the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment, it was a Black woman, a multiracial woman, a woman of color, who stole the show.
White women cheered on as Kamala Harris took the oath of office. Hillary Clinton was on the platform at the Capitol as was Amy Kloubachar who was chosen to serve as the master of ceremonies. Many white women who bring us the news, like Andrea Mitchell, expressed joy. Many white women in my Facebook and Instagram feed posted themselves wearing pearls and converse, a show of solidarity with the first woman Vice President.
But, I wonder how many were just a touch resentful that it wasn’t them? That it wasn’t a white woman?
Well, white women, you made a Faustian bargain. One hundred years ago you sold out your Black sisters and yesterday, they passed you by. Ironic, isn’t it?
I’m not saying that if white women had partnered with Black women 100 years ago that yesterday a white woman would have been the one sworn in. I’m just saying that the irony wasn’t lost on this white woman who strongly identifies as a feminist. It’s a lesson white people seem to have a really hard time learning. The more you hold Black people back, the harder they work to succeed.
Congratulations, Vice President Kamala Harris. To witness the first woman become Vice President, and that she is a Black, multi-racial, woman of color, brought tears to my eyes. She may not be perfect, and there will undoubtedly be things on which we disagree, but history was made yesterday for all women, and this time Black women led the way. I beg forgiveness on behalf of the white suffragists who left you behind, I hope you will not do the same to us, even though we probably deserve it.
100 years later it’s a Black, multi-racial, woman of color who will forever be known as the “first.”