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Local leaders say VP candidate will ‘bring the country together’

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

It must have taken a lot of perseverance, said Sarita Nair, chief administrative officer at the City of Albuquerque, for Sen. Kamala Harris to end up near the top of the Democratic ticket.

Sen. Kamala Harris

Nair, like Harris, is part of a bicultural Black-Indian family. Nair is Indian and her daughter is Black.

“A biracial person, you don’t get half the discrimination. You get double the discrimination a lot of the time,” Nair said. “As accomplished, and skilled and intelligent as (Harris) is, she must be tough. To think how hard she had to fight to get here … I think it’s a good story. It’s the American Dream.”

The daughter of an Indian-American mother and a Black father from Jamaica, Harris is the first woman of color nominated for vice president by a major political party. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced Harris as his running mate on Tuesday.

Sarita Nair

The decision reverberated through New Mexico.

State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, said for the past two days she has been getting calls from Albuquerque Public Schools teachers about how to teach their students about the significance of Harris’ nomination. Stapleton, the first Black woman elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives and floor leader, is an administrator at APS.

“It is extremely significant. When (the nomination was announced), all I thought about was all the young ladies, the little girls, especially minorities, to see that a woman of color can become vice president,” she said.

Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque,

At a time when minority communities are being disproportionately hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement is working to address systemic racism, Harris will bring an important perspective to the national stage, said Harold Bailey, president of the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP.

“I think it’s an outstanding choice on the part of Mr. Biden. She will bring the country together, she’s extremely sharp,” Bailey said. “It’s a strong ticket and it reflects what America is all about.”

Finnie Coleman, a University of New Mexico professor in the English Department and the Africana Studies Program, said that Harris is following in the footsteps of many Black women who were leaders in civil rights era. He said he was thinking of Shirley Chisholm, who was the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Ella Baker, Barbara Jordan and others.

“I think it is significant in that this decision reflects a long history of Black women who have been leaders of our country who have often been overshadowed,” Coleman said. “There was a cadre of women working during the Civil Rights Movement who set the stage for Kamala Harris.”

Harris in 2016 was elected a senator for California. Prior to that, she spent much of her career as a prosecutor. She was the San Francisco District Attorney from 2004 to 2011 and the California Attorney General from 2011 to 2017.

“Kamala Harris is the best person for the (nomination) for a variety of reasons. We’re focusing on her race, ethnicity and gender, and those are important,” Coleman said. “But the most important factor is that she is remarkable human being who is prepared for the opportunity.”

Megan Bott, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Black Leadership Council, said that while the council doesn’t endorse political candidates, the group was “very happy” with the Harris nomination.

“We support Black women being at the center of leadership, especially in Washington,” she said.

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