The year 2020 is certainly going down in American history. Earlier this year, as the #BlackLivesMatter movement erupted in the US, perhaps another one was finding its impetus in the American senate.
Marking a historic day in the US on August 11th, California Senator Kamala Harris became the first-ever woman of colour to be contesting for the post of the US Vice-President. She has been named Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate for the forthcoming elections.
Historic as it is, the feat becomes all the more significant given that it was, in fact, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment of the US constitution that granted women the right to vote when the announcement of Kamala’s VP run was made. After Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008, she is the third woman to be selected as a major party vice-presidential candidate.
Kamala has been breaking the internet and going viral since the news of her candidature broke. Here’s everything that you need to know about this trailblazer:
A lawyer by profession, Kamala boasts of an illustrious track record that makes her a great addition to Biden’s cabinet. In 2003, she became the first woman and also the first African American ever elected as San Francisco’s district attorney. She adopted a very tough approach towards crime during her run, which resulted in a 50-70 per cent drop in the crime rates and her re-election as well.
Following this in 2010, Harris won her first statewide election as attorney-general of California, got re-elected in 2014, and again, marked a landslide victory in the election to the US Senate in 2016.
Kamala’s experience in the courtroom makes her an excellent orator and she was, in fact, running for the President in 2020 before she quit the campaign owing to financial issues.
An American lawyer, Kamala was born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican American father. She shared in her first campaign speech, “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.”
However, her parents separated when she was just 7, and Kamala’s mother raised her and her sister. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a breast cancer specialist who defied a lot of conventions back in her day. From moving to the US for her education to marrying a man of colour and then eventually separating from him, Shyamala did it all on her own terms. That said, she was very well aware of the implications that being people of colour would have on her daughter, and prepared them for it well. This grounded upbringing and their mother’s values have thus had a huge impact on the two sisters.
As Kamala writes in her memoir, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, “My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters. She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls.”
That said, Kamala is connected to her Indian roots as well, and as a child, Harris would often visit her grandparents and family in Tamil Nadu. “My mother, grandparents, aunts and uncle instilled us with pride in our South Asian roots…we were raised with a strong awareness of and appreciation for Indian culture. All of my mother’s words of affection or frustration came out in her mother tongue (Tamil)–which seems fitting to me since the purity of those emotions is what I associate with my mother most of all,” she shared in her memoir.
Kamala didn’t disappoint in her first campaign appearance as Biden’s candidate. During the speech, she talked about her cultural heritage, Jamaican and Indian immigrants, her parents, and the importance of family in her life. “I have had a lot of titles over my career and certainly vice president will be great. But ‘Momala’ will always be the one that means the most,” she was quoted saying. “Momala’ is what Kamala’s step-children call her.
She also took the opportunity to talk about women who made it possible for her to be where she is today and acknowledged that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Kamala further added “I am ready to get to work,” and that she was “incredibly honoured by this responsibility.”
A lot of Indians across the world have been welcoming Kamala’s appointment as Joe Biden’s Vice President and here’s what they have to say:
It would be interesting to see how the campaign unfolds for Biden from here on. We know we’re definitely cheering on for Senator Harris!
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