'Powerful,' 'gratifying,' 'surreal': P.E.I. women of colour react to Harris as U.S. VP

·2 min read

As Sweta Daboo frames it, Tuesday was the last day that there had never been a woman of colour in the job of vice-president of the United States.

"As of yesterday there is now precedent. This will be normalized and this is something incredible to look forward to," said Daboo.

Daboo is a woman of colour living on P.E.I., and the the executive director of the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government.

"It was absolutely incredible and very surreal," she said of watching the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Jiayu Su/UPEI Student Union
Jiayu Su/UPEI Student Union

UPEI biology Prof. Marva Sweeney-Nixon, also woman of colour, was watching as well.

"It was emotional, it was gratifying, it was just a really powerful and exciting experience," said Sweeney-Nixon.

"I just sat there and thought about how powerful it was for women and for girls and for people of colour to see this. I thought about just how inspiring she is."

'Not the last'

Daboo said her favourite moments of the ceremony included the poem by Amanda Gorman and the fist bump between Harris and former president Barack Obama, but it was Harris's actual taking of the oath of office that struck her the most.

"I thought about a quote that she had earlier which was, 'You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.'" she said.

"Watching her take this oath, and thinking of all the little girls, all the children of colour, all the youth around the world that were watching this moment happen, it was easy to believe that she would not be the last."

Nancy Russell, CBC
Nancy Russell, CBC

But both Sweeney-Nixon and Daboo said this is just the beginning of a difficult road for Harris.

"People are going to be watching her and expecting more from her just like they did with Barack Obama," said Sweeney-Nixon.

"If you make a mistake or you stumble, oftentimes that can be used to say this is why people of this or that group should not be in positions of power," added Daboo.

And, they added, the experience of Obama's presidency and what followed also showed electing someone to high office is not enough to change society.

"There's a lot of change that needs to follow," said Sweeney-Nixon.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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