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The meaning of Kamala Harris: the woman who will break new ground as vice-president

The former prosecutor and senator is the first woman to fill her upcoming White House role. What does her life so far tell us about how she will govern?

Kamala Harris has spent her life crashing through glass ceilings and accumulating “firsts”. She was the first female district attorney of San Francisco, the first female attorney general of California, the first Indian American in the US Senate, the first Indian American candidate of a major party to run for vice-president. Soon she will become the first female vice-president. If Joe Biden only serves one term, as expected, there is a chance that in 2024 she could become the first black female president.

The problem with phrases like “first black female president” is that they confine the California senator to the sort of boxes she has always tried to avoid. “When I first ran for office that was one of the things that I struggled with, which is that you are forced through that process to define yourself in a way that you fit neatly into the compartment that other people have created,” she told the Washington Post last year. “I am who I am … You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.” She does not agonise over her identity – she simply calls herself a “proud American”.

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