Translation: Tom Atkins
On August 11th, 2020, Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 2020 US presidential election, picked the Black female Senator from California, Kamala Harris, as his running mate. Neither of these traits, female and Black, are coincidental.
Upon receiving the Democratic Party’s nomination, Biden promised to have a woman as vice-president. But after a wave of protests swept the nation following the racially motivated murder of George Floyd by white cops on may 25th, it became apparent that over-arching reforms would be needed in order to eradicate the systematic racism infesting all national institutions.
Such reforms would require not only a leader of stature in their own right, but who can also serve as a symbol of change. Kamala Harris, one of Biden’s fiercest opponents in the 2019 Democratic primaries, fits both requirements perfectly.
Harris possesses qualities Biden lacks. She’s brilliant, sharp, witty, intelligent, profound and she doesn’t make mistakes. After assisting in Biden’s successful presidential campaign, chances are high that she would also help him to steer the American ship of state out of the dire straits it is in, and sail towards a better future.
Harris’s Family Biography: Choosing to Join the African-American Identity and Struggle
In a primary debate, Harris described how, back in 1969, she was one of the first children to take a special school bus from her own neighborhood to another. That is, that she was a part of the early days of school integration. By that, she has won a place in the history of the Black struggle for equal rights and desegregation.
It should be noted, however, that the Harris family’s biography is not a typical one. Harris’s parents were not African-American but immigrants, arriving in the US as foreign students in the late 1950s. Her father was an economist from Jamaica and her mother, a cancer researcher, was born in India. They met in Berkeley.
Both parents were born in former British colonies, now independent states with a native majority. The education they received in their countries of origin opened doors to excellent American universities. While Jamaica did have slavery until 1838, the vast majority of its population is Black, and the history of Black people there is markedly different from the violence, hate and institutional discrimination experienced by Black people in the US.
As Berkeley students, Harris’s parents were civil rights activists in the early 1960s, as were all of their friends, she says. Her parents’ choice to take part in the struggle, to take on an African-American identity and be a part of the community, should not be taken lightly. At the time, many immigrants chose their own personal comfort. When Harris was 7, Her parents divorced, and her mother chose to stay and raise her and her younger sister, Maya, in the Black community.
Harris’s Personal Biography: Choosing to represent women and people of color?
After graduating from high-school, Harris decided to study economy and political science in Howard University in Washington D.C. Howard, a historically Black university, is still called Black Harvard by many. Today it’s a private university, with a majority of African-American students, and a special emphasis on Black studies in various courses.
While Harris could have been accepted to any elite university, her choice to go specifically to Howard is evidence of a particular desire to build her African-American identity. Howard provided Harris not only with excellent education, but also with life-long friends. In her vice-presidential nomination acceptance speech, she referred to her sorority members as family.
After completing her bachelor’s degree, Harris studied law at the University of California, and worked as a prosecutor for the Alameda County district attorney. Early in her career, she focused on prosecuting sex crimes.
Prior to her 2016 election as a Senator for California, Harris served as the state of California’s Attorney General. This is a controversial chapter of her biography, due to her position at the head of a legal system infamous for discriminating Black people.
As a senator, Harris stood out in open discussions. One example was the hearing of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s conservative Supreme Court nominee. While Kavanaugh’s appointment was ultimately approved, Harris presented pointed question regarding his sexual assault charges, proving she puts great importance on representing all American women, whether they voted for her or not.
In Obama’s Footsteps: Trump’s Smear Campaign
Harris’s personal story, as Obama’s, might fuel some of her opposition’s criticism. During his presidency, Obama, the son of an American mother and a Kenyan father, was subjected to a crusade by Donald Trump. He was ultimately forced to reveal his birth certificate in order to prove he was a natural born citizen of the US, and therefore eligible to hold the office of President – a requirement shared by the office of Vice-President. Obama’s middle name, Hussein, was used to spread false claims that he was a Muslim and an enemy of the American nation. Trump has also tried to spread similar rumors and slander on Harris herself. I can’t believe she took it too hard. As a Black woman in the US, she must have heard much worse.