Get To Know Kamala Harris

July 31, 2020

Kamala Harris

Oakland-born Kamala Harris, who was born to an Indian immigrant mother and Jamaican father is both one of the most high profile Black elected officials and one of the most high profile Indian American elected officials in the United States. Harris’s parents met while working on civil rights causes in the Bay Area in the 1960s. The senator has often spoken about her mother Shyamala’s strength after her parents’ divorce. “My sister Maya and I were raised by a strong mother,” Harris once wrote. “She taught us not only to dream but to do. ⁣She taught us to believe in our power to right what is wrong.” ⁣

A graduate of Howard University and the UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, Harris began her career as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, CA in 1990. She began attracting statewide attention when she became the first Black woman in California history to be elected both District Attorney (in 2003) and Attorney General (in 2009). In 2016, she filled the Senate seat vacated by Senator Barbara Boxer’s retirement, and this past year was a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

Here are some key things to know about where Harris stands on the issues that matter to women:

  • In her recent memoir, Harris wrote that she considered herself a progressive prosecutor” whose job it was to see and address the causes of crime, not just their consequences, and to shine a light on the inequality and unfairness that lead to injustice.”
  • As District Attorney, Harris developed a Hate Crimes Unit that primarily focused on crimes committed against LGBTQ students in San Francisco’s schools and was an early supporter of gay marriage in the state. 
  • In 2005, Harris’s office created the “Back on Track” program, which focused on “reducing recidivism among low-level drug-trafficking defendants.” The Bureau of Justice Assistance reported that less than 10% of the program’s graduates would reoffend and the program became a model for many other District Attorneys across the country. 
  • Critics of Harris’s prosecutorial record, however, say that she was known for being tough on crime and advocated for higher bail for alleged violent offenders.
  • As Attorney General, Harris expanded her “Back on Track” program across California and worked to address racial disparities in policing by implementing a certified implicit-bias training program for the state’s law enforcement agencies. The California Department of Justice was also the first California agency to require its officers and agents to wear body cameras.
  • As a prominent member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris has often drawn notice for her sharp questioning of witnesses at several hearings, particularly her questioning of Trump officials about the handling of Robert Mueller’s investigation and report and her remarks during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
  • During her 2019 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Harris had memorable moments in debates, including speaking about her experience with bussing.
  • In March, Harris and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act to improve the maternal mortality rate in the United States — specifically by addressing the racial disparities that currently exist in maternal health
  • Harris also recently called for the creation of a coronavirus task force that would examine the impact of the virus on communities of color. 

Since suspending her campaign, Harris has endorsed the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and has hosted several events in support of the candidate, including a recent virtual fundraiser that raised over $2 million dollars.