Representation matters. And when you see yourself in the politicians, actors, and change-makers of the world, it's often the first time you truly believe that you, too, can be in one of those positions. This is exactly what happened when Senator Kamala Harris was crowned the Vice-President-elect Saturday with her and Joe Biden’s nail-biting election win.
Just like Kamala, I’m a first-generation daughter of immigrants. My mother is from Iran and my father from Lebanon. They met in California, just like her parents, and set off on achieving their own version of the American dream. My parents, much like hers, encouraged me to do and become whatever I wanted, and as much as I’ve strived for that, it was hard to know what that would look like when I didn’t see myself represented outside of my family.
My first taste of representation came in the form of film, with actor Rami Malek’s award-winning performances in Mr. Robot and Bohemian Rhapsody. It was furthered by the Hulu series, Ramy, where I felt for the first time I saw myself, my culture, and my humor represented on television. The doors were opening. In fact, Kamala wasn’t the first time I saw someone like me in politics. Rashida Tlaib and a handful of Iranian-American women winning political seats gave me a preview, but the victory of this 2020 election stole the show.
Seeing Kamala take the stage in suffragette white was powerful for me as a woman, a Middle Eastern woman, an American woman, but most importantly as a first-generation daughter of immigrants. It’s the first thought that popped into my head: Kamala is me, and I am Kamala. I, too, could achieve that level of success and beyond because she opened the door for us. She is everything her ancestors envisioned and everything the American dream is about.
There’s a level of pressure that comes with having immigrant parents who just want you to succeed, who want you to live out their American dream. You want to do it for them and for yourself, to prove that your “newness” in this country wasn’t a hindrance, but an added-value to the fabric of an immigrant nation. These last four years, we were made to feel bad about that — but not anymore. With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' win, we’ve taken a collective sigh of relief. We can celebrate our differences again, not try to hide them.
As the tears fell down my face, I was moved and motivated knowing this was just the beginning. As the VP-elect said in her speech, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” And now we know it truly is.