How do I respond to a co-worker who thinks VP Kamala Harris shouldn’t be seen as a woman of color...
... but just a woman? She felt that it was important to emphasize that she is the first female Vice President more than her being Black and Asian. I just don't know how to explain how important race is.
Our wonderful new Vice President, Kamala Harris, is who she is today because of her race and gender. When your co-worker commented that she should just be seen as a woman, she is actually stripping individuals like VP Harris of their identity.
"...because power is unequally distributed in social groups, some parties to the process will be more represented than others." Anton Allahar
Being a woman is more represented than being a Black or an Asian woman. Things become very difficult for subgroups when you combine racism and sexism. Each identity creates different problems that you should not ignore, but society often does. This is called intersectionality. Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, the term is defined as the study of how overlapping or intersecting social identities—and particularly minority identities—relate to systems and structures of discrimination. When you say that you do not see color, you are not seeing a large part of the individual and how those characteristics made them who they are today. This can be seen as Identity Erasure. In addition, the race and gender of VP Harris have presented both obstacles and opportunities to her advancement - all vitally important parts of her story.
Classifying our Vice President as a woman of color allows us to see her as the whole and authentic woman she is and should not pose a threat to your co-worker. Tell them that being a woman is already difficult. However, being a woman of color who is able to hold one of the highest offices in the world is an extraordinary accomplishment.
To read more about the concept of colorblindness in recognizing race, try out these resources: