The former Democratic senator from California took the oath of office on Wednesday, alongside President Joe Biden, on an Inauguration Day that looked very different from previous ones thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about extremist right-wing riots.
Harris, with her hand placed on two Bibles held by her husband, Doug Emhoff, was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is the first Hispanic and Latina member of the Supreme Court.
The swearing-in ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol took place two weeks after Trump supporters stormed the building in an attempt to disrupt Congress’ certification of Biden and Harris’ election victory. Several people died as a result of the insurrection, including U.S. Capitol Police officers. Rioters attacked law enforcement officers, broke windows and furniture, and attempted to hunt down some of the hastily evacuated lawmakers, with the likely intent to harm them.
Harris’ inauguration marks the first time that either a woman, a Black American or an Asian American has become vice president of the U.S. Born to Indian and Jamaican immigrant parents, she has called herself “a proud American” whose Black and Indian heritages “are of equal weight in terms of who I am.”
She is also the first vice president to graduate from a historically Black college or university, earning her bachelor’s degree at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University in 1986. At the time Harris was chosen to join Biden’s ticket, Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick called it an “extraordinary moment” that “represents a milestone opportunity for our democracy to acknowledge the leadership Black women have always exhibited.”
“When she governs as the first and last person in the room with Joe Biden, she’s going to bring all of those identities with her into those rooms,” said Glynda Carr, national director of Higher Heights, a political action committee focused on electing more Black women at state and federal levels.
“But she is also a reminder of the fact that there are conscious and unconscious biases of women, and women of color, and Black women,” Carr continued, speaking to HuffPost at the time of Harris’ election. “And so when she during the debates said, ‘I’m speaking, I’m speaking’ ― every woman, regardless of race and ethnicity, has been in a position where they saw and felt that, and that was a coalescing point for her.”