By Chirali Sharma:
US politician Kamala Harris was a favourite among many millennial and young voters when she had initially submitted her name for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Being a Democrat who often stood with the common people and marginalised communities, she had been a good candidate overall.
On many of my social media platforms, I saw various Americans touting for saying how amazing she is and would make a good President. However, she ended her campaign on 3rd December last year due to a shortage of funds.
Her name though is again making news with her recently being announced as Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 elections on 11th August. Biden, who is now the Democratic Party’s official nomination for the presidential elections has selected Harris as his vice-presidential nomination.
Her nomination brings much awe with it since she is the first African American and Asian American to be chosen for this position, especially by a presidential candidate of a major party in the United States.
However, there is much more to her than is known, and her Indian connection is among one of those.
Here are 10 things we should know about her, and why India itself should be aware of her:
Kamala Harris is the daughter of the late Shyamala Gopalan Harris and Donald Harris. Her father comes from Jamaica while her mother hails from Tamil Nadu, Chennai in India. Both were immigrants in the US and met at the University of California, Berkeley, where her mother was pursuing a doctorate in endocrinology, and her father was studying economics.
Harris has spoken of how her parents met, “My mother and father, they came from opposite sides of the world to arrive in America. One from India and the other from Jamaica in search of a world-class education. But what brought them together was the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And that is how they met as students in the streets of Oakland marching and shouting for this thing called justice in a struggle that continues today.”
Her grandfather is also said to be a freedom fighter during the Independence movement in India. Harris would often visit Chennai to see her maternal grandparents, spending her summers there.
Harris has shown a few times now that she is not afraid to stand against Indian policies which she disagrees with. She had also spoken about the situation of Kashmir after the Modi government had abolished Article 370 in October 2019.
While answering a question about the “human rights abuses” in Kashmir and the type of restrictions put in Kashmir such as curfews, communication blackout, etc., she stated, “We have to remind the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world. We are keeping a track on the situation. There is a need to intervene if the situation demands.”
She had also criticised External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar when he refused to attend a meeting during his US visit last year because of Indian-origin Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s participation.
Jaishankar had said he would not attend the House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting because of Pramila’s presence. Pramila had already tried to move a resolution on the Kashmir issue which is what Jaishankar had taken offence to and decided to shun her out. Harris, in a tweet, had criticised this move and said, “It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill.”
It should also be noted that Biden himself has not been very favourable to the Citizenship Amendment Act brought out by the ruling government.
Her multicultural roots certainly allow her to empathise with and understand the more marginalised and minority communities.
In 2003, she told AsianWeek that “I grew up with a strong Indian culture, and I was raised in a black community. All my friends were black, and we got together and cooked Indian food and painted henna on our hands, and I never felt uncomfortable with my cultural background.”
Harris and her sister Maya also attended both a Hindu temple and were part of the choir at a black Baptist church. They also used to visit their father’s birthplace in Jamaica and their mother’s town in Chennai often.
Harris has also stated many times that she has always wanted to be a lawyer. An incident from her childhood is said to be monumental in her decision. While she was studying in high school in Montreal, she had her friend live with her in her house when she found out that the girl was being sexually abused by her father.
In an interview with The Chronicle, she said that “Some of the most voiceless in the community, the most vulnerable, the most powerless, are victims of crime, and I wanted to be a voice for them.”
Kamala Harris has also called out Joe Biden for some of his comments that did not sit well with her. She called his statements of even getting work done with segregationist senators as an example of “civility” in Congress to be “hurtful” to her.
She had also accused Biden of opposing busing in some of her statements.
Harris’ video of her questioning then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings had gone viral.
Her forceful questioning was applauded by many Americans online and is one reason why she is so well known.
Kamala Harris has advocated for better gun control in America, something that is a big part of her presidential candidature. She has stated that she would get Congress to tighten the gun regulations within her first 100 days in power or would take executive action.
Not only gun control, but lately Harris is also an avid spokesperson of reform in US police and how they do their duty. Given the recent police brutality cases that have come up, this stance is critical to many people there.
Although Harris has called out some of the Indian policies, it is said that she could be pro-immigration of Indians. In 2019, she was one of the lead co-sponsor for legislation that would increase the number of green cards given to countries like India and China.
She is certainly the first in various cases, the first Black woman to get a seat in the Senate, and now the first Asian American and African American to be the vice-presidential nominee.
Note: A version of this post was first published here.