TEXAS – Even as court cases over the election results remain, it seems fairly certain that next year America will have a new president and vice president in the White House, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris brings with her a lot of “firsts” that are already inspiring many Texas communities.
Chanda Parbhoo can attest to that firsthand. The South Asian American organized the Biden-Harris signs outside her home while reflecting on the vice president-elect who has made her passion for politics stronger than ever before.
Just the fact she had a say in the election is still a powerful thing for Parbhoo.
“I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, under apartheid rule,” she said, “so that means I was born a second-class citizen and so was my dad.”
Even after they immigrated to Dallas, she said growing up with her skin color and her accent led to a fair amount of discrimination and made her feel like an outsider.
That feeling has subsided in recent weeks; since a late October visit to Fort Worth to see Sen. Kamala Harris speak.
“I just started crying before she even got on the stage knowing what a pivotal moment this was gonna be,” said Parbhoo.
For the first time in her American experience, Parbhoo saw someone just like her on the big stage, inspiring a diverse crowd and driving toward the second biggest office in the country.
Just seeing Harris campaign felt like a turning point for her, but seeing her projected as the next vice president just a few weeks ago was life-changing for Parbhoo.
“I often felt like it was ‘them and us,’ and for the first time, I really feel like it’s all of us; that this ticket means it’s all of us,” she said. “We see in Kamala: our lives.”
Parbhoo said that was the experience for many in her South Asian American Voter Empowerment Group; a group Parbhoo founded to get more people in her community involved with politics.
They’re not the only ones inspired by the vice president-elect either.
Fort Worth Bishop Kenneth Spears said Harris’s impact can also be seen in the Black community at his church and throughout Fort Worth.
“You can never erase what has been done,” said Spears about Harris and Biden’s projected election. “It has to be a part of the history of the story that’s being told.”
Spears said he’s already seeing a lot of the passion revived that he saw during President Barack Obama’s run in years past. This time, though, in addition to Harris’s background as a person of color, the fact that she’s the first woman to be projected as vice president-elect adds a new layer.
Spears said the day after that projection, he could see a new found engagement in the political process among many of the young girls in his congregation.
“There’s a young girl in our church who says, ‘now I believe,’” said Spears. “No matter what we’ve been saying about voting or what we’ve said about who you can be… she said these words, ‘Now I believe.’”
No matter the political perspective, witnessing so many firsts – so many people seeing themselves represented like never before – is undoubtedly historic.
Parbhoo says now, she works to make that count locally. Her empowerment group plans to keep driving up voter numbers and to keep those inspired by Harris engaged in the process going forward.
Now, even for Parbhoo who’s been active in the process for some years, it’s a whole new day with that new inspiration at the top.
“She knew. She’s walked in our shoes. She knows who we are and for the first time we felt like we belong, and this is our world and our country,” said Parbhoo.