STORIES
Women Heroes

Kamala Harris

by Arya K - High School - from San Diego, California in United States

“To be smart on crime, we should not be in a position of constantly reacting to crime after it happens. We should be looking at preventing crime before it happens.”

Complacency is everywhere. Far too often, problems within society stick around and get worse, despite everyone knowing they exist. It takes someone who is loud and determined to break out of that cycle. Famous for being the first South-Asian and second African American California senator, Kamala Harris is known for being unwavering in the face of opposition, and determined to serve her community. Harris was born in 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights movement. She learned the value of social justice through her mother, a breast cancer researcher and activist, and her father, an economics teacher at Stanford. She has always had a strong sense of justice, whether it was as a valued young prosecutor, an attorney general, or as a senator. She always prioritized finding the potential in people, starting programs to help first-time offenders find employment and get back on their feet (“Kamala Harris,” Contemporary). Her background ignited a strong desire in her  to help others and look past stereotypes to find compassion and potential, and allowed her to improve the lives of the people in her community. Heroes possess the ability to go against the monotonous nature of complacency and to find ways to improve the lives of the people around them, and Harris is determined to do exactly that. Kamala Harris, through her willingness, compassion and determination to help others, is a hero.

132369Senator Kamala Harris official photoUnited States Congress [Public domain] via WikimediaWe can all aspire to Harris’s ability to look past stereotypes and focus on what matters most - providing for our communities. Inspired by her neighbor, Regina Shelton, Harris always felt the importance  "of seeing the potential in people without stereotyping them, investing in them with the expectation that they can be great” (“Kamala Harris,” Newsmakers). Harris makes it clear that she cares about the well being of others, rather than how they appear. This selflessness made her a good lawyer and senator.  Harris carried this optimism further, making it a priority of hers to protect the rights of people and guide them towards a more successful life. This led to her “smart on crime” philosophy towards the law: “To be smart on crime, we should not be in a position of constantly reacting to crime after it happens. We should be looking at preventing crime before it happens” (“Kamala Harris Among”). Often in the criminal justice system, people are reduced to the label of “criminal” when, in real life, there are reasons beyond the person's morals. Often, petty crimes come from poverty or a lack of safety rather than a  desire to break the law. From this viewpoint, Harris stretches a hand towards them to lead them away from a life of crime.  By advocating for a healthier mind set in the criminal justice system, Harris shows compassion by guiding people toward success instead of putting them down.

Recently, after announcing her presidential candidacy, Harris commented on the detention of immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border: “When we have children in cages, crying for their mothers and fathers, don't you dare call that border security. That's a human rights abuse (“Kamala Harris Kicks”)!" Her focus on helping people no matter what stretched into her  campaign for president, where she spoke out and advocated against the detainment of immigrants at the southern border. Unlike others, she looks past their status as illegal immigrants and sees them as people who have an equal right to protection by the American government.

132370Biden Harris LogoJoe Biden 2020 Presidential Campaign [Public domain] via WikimediaWith compassion, Harris creates change in her community, determined to see her goals achieved. When she was younger, she became a prosecutor in Alameda, California, and constantly worked hard, not only to hold people accountable, but to protect the rights of the disenfranchised: "Over the next eight years, she worked her way up to become one of Alameda's most successful and valued prosecutors. [...]  Throughout her career, Harris would prioritize the rights and welfare of young people. "I saw the discretion the district attorney has," she explained to Joan Walsh of San Francisco Magazine. "Who to prosecute, what to charge, how to run a courtroom, and I realized it was important that people who care about social justice work on that side." In 2018, Harris helped propose a bill that would make lynching a federal crime (“Kamala Harris,” Contemporary).

One main philosophy of Harris’s life is that those with power must help those without it. It was with this philosophy that she pursued a career in criminal justice. To make change, she needed to be right in the middle of where change occurred. Her drive to help victims makes her a hero. Christopher Lelane, a political consultant, had this to say when Harris, as attorney general, demanded banks provide more for homeowners underwater due to the housing crisis: “Every single day she is doing stuff to hold criminals accountable, to hold big banks accountable. I mean there's not that many Democrats or Republicans in the country who could run anywhere else in the country and say, ‘I stood up to the banking industry. I took them on and I won.’ That's the type of toughness that people like (“Kamala Harris Among”)."

Her ‘toughness’, as Lelane describes, shows her determination to succeed no matter what. She is stubborn about her goal to protect the rights of the people she governs, even at the risk of her reputation with industries. Putting her own success at risk for the wellbeing of the people is heroic. As Harris stood up for the silenced and demanded equality for Americans, a growing number of people tried to silence her: "As a woman of color admonished, chastised, hushed, and scolded for not falling into line, Harris confirmed an infuriating narrative about who wields power in Washington and how that power gets deployed to silence those who dare to speak out," reflected Katy Waldman, who covers the Congressional beat for the online publication Slate (“Kamala Harris,” Newsmakers). Despite this, Harris continues to speak out and represent Californians. Standing up for those who are silenced, and making sure they are heard and have their needs addressed, Harris breaks the narrative Waldman raises, that only those with privilege have power. Harris’s innate drive to make the world around her a better place and help people makes her a hero.

Kamala Devi Harris is a compassionate person who is determined achieve her goals of making the world a better place. Through her career as a prosecutor and attorney general, she prioritized the wellbeing of victims and always worked hard to make sure they were treated fairly and not forgotten. As a senator, she focused on the greater issue of inequality, and helped to pass laws to address it. She is an inspiration to any girl or person of color who feels as if their voices are not important. As Katy Waldman explains: "While Harris may not have asked for the symbolic mantle she now wears, it has already hastened her political rise. The progressive cause needs fierce, avenging angels. Harris, outspoken and scrappy, filled the available vacancy (“Kamala Harris” Newsmakers)."  As a person of color myself, I often feel pressure to fit into a certain box - or rather, to stay out of other boxes. Kamala Harris’s success as a lawyer and senator proves to me and many others that progress is possible and that our voices can finally be heard.

Page created on 4/8/2019 7:25:56 PM

Last edited 3/26/2021 5:04:59 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Kamala D. Harris: Senator For California
Kamala Harris: For The People - Kamala Harris: For The People. Her campaign website details Harris’s many achievements as well as her background.

Extra Info

Works Cited

"Kamala Harris Among The Rising Dem Stars At DNC." All Things Considered, 3 Sept. 2012. Accessed 21 Mar. 2019.

"Kamala Harris." Contemporary Black Biography, vol. 64, Gale, 2008. Accessed 21 Mar. 2019.

"Kamala Harris Kicks Off Presidential Campaign With Oakland Rally." Morning Edition, 28 Jan. 2019. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019.

"Kamala Harris." Newsmakers, vol. 3, Gale, 2017. Accessed 21 Mar. 2019.