Kamala Harris, to borrow a phrase from Joe Biden, is a big f***ing deal from the perspective of women in politics.

In this particular historical moment, when the protests of Black Lives Matter are in the fore and the long-term reliance of the Democratic party on Black women’s votes and volunteerism are central, it is fitting that Biden’s pick is of Jamaican and Indian descent.

It is not a zero-sum game among women, but I feel hope and pride for my country that the first female VP might be not be a woman that looks like me. It would be both a victory and a long-overdue change when it comes to women’s organizing.

Historically, when women have organized in the United States, the social movements have started out as radical and more racially diverse. Then goals narrow, and women who occupy the most precarious positions in America find the victories wanting. White women disproportionately reap these movements’ material benefits.

First wave suffragist organizing, for example, found its origins in the abolitionist movement, and its leaders included some free Black women. But after the Civil War, most white movement leaders went from advocating for abolition and a substantial role change for women to focusing narrowly on “educated suffrage” in an effort to cancel out the votes of Black men. Black women were silenced, actively subjugated and frequently asked to “choose” between their race and gender. White women did eventually win that right to vote, just as the realities of Jim Crow rendered suffrage mute for most Black men and Black women.

Women’s activism of the 1970s, too, initially saw cross-racial and cross-class consciousness raising that faltered over time. My own research, and that of others in the field, has found that the material gains from these movements — job opportunities, pay increases, reproductive health access and educational access— flowed disproportionately to white women.

A Madam Vice President Harris does not, of course, cancel these legacies. But if she is elected to the second-highest office in the land that glass ceiling will be shattered by a woman of color. And that would be a welcome change to patterns of women’s advancement in the U.S.

Harris will, of course, face challenges a male, white VP candidate would not. As a woman, she will be perceived as better on domestic policy than foreign policy, and she will face questions about whether she can balance home life and elected office. She will be asked whether she is tough enough to do the job while remaining likeable.

Female candidates are also perceived as more liberal than men, regardless of partisanship. This could hurt the campaign in swing states. The progressive all-or-nothing Bernie wing of the party will question her role as a prosecutor. She will be too much for some. Not enough for others.

And for a woman of color, the tightrope is higher and narrower, as she must also battle the tired, racist trope of the angry, aggressive Black woman.

Harris will deal with it all.

Her presence and assuredness doing so matters. Descriptive representation opens minds and possibilities. Young people will see in the top echelons of American government a candidate that better represents the whole of the polity.

Just as importantly, descriptive representation begets substantive representation. Electing women of color is not just a “feel good” proposition — substantive policy outputs follow. If elected, a Vice President Harris will change policy conversations and priorities in the White House.

The Democrats, and the Democratic base that looks far more like Harris than Biden, finally have a candidate to get behind, as opposed to just a president to run against.

Erin O'Brien is an associate professor of political science at UMass Boston. She teaches about women and politics and publishes in the field. She is reachable via Twitter: @prof_eob