Max Ehrmann reminds us in “Desiderata” (1927) that, whether or not it is clear to us, the universe is unfolding as it should. That thought came to mind when I saw that Joe Biden had selected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris to be the Democratic nominee for vice president of the United States. I didn’t think that because of her formable political resume – San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and U.S. Senator – though this experience is sufficient to recommend her. I say this because Kamala Harris is emblematic of an America struggling to be born.
But why is the new America struggling to be born? It’s because there’s an old America that refuses to die.
America in theory is founded on an a priori truth, that “all men are created equal,” and believes itself to be fundamentally good and innocent and, whatever its heinous misdeeds, they are just necessary evils on the way to “a more perfect union.”
The realty of America bears no resemblance to its creation myth. In reality America is founded upon the lie that white lives matter more than others, that white lives have intrinsically more value than the lives of others. It’s this lie that’s at the core of white identity in America, and it’s this lie the majority of white Americans will protect at all costs.
Witness their strong support of Donald Trump despite his corruption and incompetence. Donald Trump is the mirror white America has kept covered, and now it can no longer delude itself about the mendacity and venality of the image. Trump can be who he is, because he too is America. To appropriate and paraphrase Lincoln, the November 3 election will test whether a nation so conceived can continue to endure.
But what is this new America struggling to be born? It’s a multiracial, multicultural, inter-generational America.
This America is 40% people of color, with over 47 million immigrants. It’s 51% female with more college-educated women in the workforce than college-educated men. It’s young, with 60% of the population under 45. Within the next 25 years, a majority of its population will be non-white. It could become an America transforms itself into a Social Democratic democracy that values human life over corporate profit, and where the phrase E Pluribus Unum is a reality and not a motto.
This new America struggling to be born is the context for Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris to be the Democratic nominee for vice president. Born and raised in California, she is a post-Baby Boomer daughter of two immigrants’ her mother from India and her father is from Jamaica. She is a woman of color, a graduate of Howard University and the University of California, who self-identifies as Black. Well educated and with infinite career possibilities, she chose a career in government and politics as a Black woman. She then proceeded to shatter the glass ceilings that limit the possibilities of Blacks and women.
Kamala Harris’ resume’ makes her the best VP choice, politically, but it’s her biography that makes her the right VP choice. It’s that biography that makes Harris more than representative of that emerging America. She is that emerging America. But that emblematic biography was 55 years in the making.
Much like epic fictional tales about the final battle between Good and Evil with the future of humanity at stake, despite the drama and uncertainty, the end of the story is already written. It’s clear who the Night King (Donald Trump) and Army of the Dead (his 40% of scared white voters) are, but we’re introduced to Arya Stark long before we understand who she is and her importance to the outcome.
Even if it’s not always clear how the universe is unfolding, that’s not to imply that the universe is either arbitrary or random. We don’t realize how the universe (like Game of Thrones) often provides an answer before we’re aware there’s even a question. Like another woman elevated to the high office during a time of great turmoil and uncertainty, you could say that Kamala Harris, like Arya Stark – or the Biblical Esther – was born “for such a time as this.”
Mike Jones is a member of The St. Louis American editorial board.