I’m not really not one for ceremony or even national tradition. I don’t talk to my kids enough about what goes on in the government and I may regret it someday. But on January 20th around 11:45 am, I yelled to my boys who were upstairs building a fort: “Sam! James! Get down here! You have to see this!”
Kamala Harris was about to be sworn in.
Although the refrain about this historic occasion has been, “This is a huge moment for little girls, especially little black girls,” I was also thinking, “This is a huge moment for little boys, especially little white boys.”
There is no debating the importance of kids seeing people who look like them ascend to the most powerful positions in this country. But it’s also important that we normalize it for those who have seen themselves in those positions for millennia.
When I tried to explain to Sam and James the historic nature of this inauguration, they were confused. “Why were girls or people with brown skin not allowed to be vice president?” For them, this just didn’t seem normal. Sam’s principal is a black man and one of James’ teachers is a black woman. So why couldn’t the vice president be a black woman?
I have a lot to learn about institutional racism. I’m also not a psychologist. And yes, we have a long way to go in terms of equity in this country. But I do know that something different is going on in my boys’ little brains than was mine at age four or five. They are internalizing something that should be normal for all of us. So while Harris certainly is going to make mistakes and will probably be disproportionately criticized for them, I hope, thanks in part to her, my kids never use race or gender as a reason to question someone’s leadership.
80% of our Eagle Scholars are black girls, and they are an impressive bunch. These are girls who will be arguing big cases in court, leading Fortune 500 companies, teaching my children in schools and treating my children in hospitals. They will be, as they are now, leaders in their ever-expanding circles. Thanks in part to Kamala Harris, perhaps one of my boys will work for them some day. And there will be nothing extraordinary about it.