On Friday, Sen. Kamala Harris had her first in-depth conversation with Errin Haines, editor-at-large of The 19th, since Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced her as his running mate. “The Biden-Harris ticket is about an agenda that is representing who America really is,” Harris said. She is the first Black woman and South Asian American woman to be on a major party ticket. The selection of Harris, someone who represents the American melting pot, is a step forward in shaping our highest level of government to reflect the greater United States public. Harris put it best: “I am not unique. There are a lot of people like me… It’s affirmation of who we really are.”
As November approaches, we take a dive into the multicultural background of Sen. Kamala Harris.
My mother always use to say, “Don’t just sit around and complain about things. Do something.” I dearly wish she were here with us this week. pic.twitter.com/RHO2VnlZs4
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 13, 2020
1. Her Mom is Indian
“Don’t sit around and complain about things, do something,” is a sentiment Harris often heard from her mother while growing up and it continues to propel her to this day. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, chose a name to acknowledge her Indian heritage, according to Politico. What’s more, Harris’ mother set a top-notch example of being a hard worker. In 1959, at 19 years old, Gopalan came to the United States from India to study in a biochemistry PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley. She became a breast cancer researcher, and passed in 2009 from colon cancer, according to The Mercury News.
2. Her Dad is Jamaican
Harris’ mother met her father at Berkeley, who immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica to study economics. He later became a professor at Stanford and often wrote about uneven economic development. Donald Harris met Gopalan at a group for students to talk about Black writers not included in university curriculum. The group also discussed politics, decolonization and activism. Baby in stroller, the young couple brought their daughter to civil rights protests.
3. She is a trailblazer
As the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, the success of Harris’ political career resulted in many firsts. On top of her candidacy, Harris was the first South Asian American elected to the Senate and the only current Black female senator. She became the second Black female Senator after the 2016 election, following in Carol Moseley Braun’s footsteps, who was elected in 1992. She is the fourth woman in history to be chosen for vice presidential candidacy on a major party ticket, but the first woman of color ever.
— Howard University (@HowardU) August 12, 2020
4. Harris is shaped by her visits to India
As a child, Harris visited India often. It made sense her parents brought their young daughters along to protests— Gopalan’s own parents were very civically active. Harris’ grandfather was an Indian diplomat who fought for Indian independence, which was officially achieved on this day 73 years ago. Her grandmother was an activist who taught women in poverty about birth control. She recalls summers in India walking along the beach with her grandfather and his friends and listening as they discussed the importance of democracy.