Kamala Harris: The Tale of Two Ethnicitiescsudhbulletin September 11, 2020 0 COMMENTS
“Kamala Harris” by Gage Skidmore is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0
by Jasmine Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief
When Joe Biden announced Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate at the 2020 Democratic Convention a few weeks back, a flood of emotions washed through me. Some were positive, and some were, well,less so.
Her decades-long career as a prosecutor was the main reason for the negative feelings. But! It was nice to see that Joe Biden had decided to run with a Black woman when so many politicians wouldn’t even mull that option over.
Nonetheless, Harris is the first Black woman to be nominated to run for vice president for a major party. And in this wild year of 2020, that’s still pretty crazy.
But as soon as the nomination was officially announced, what should have been a celebration for women and all people of all color turned into an online tug-of-war of racial/ethnic belonging, as Asian American and Pacific Islander advocates on Twitter were quick to flood the timeline. I noticed that these AAPI advocates/pundits/social justice warriors were quick to point out that Harris was not not only Black but Indian as well. She is biracial, and not one group has the right to claim her all to themselves.
Interestingly enough though, I think we’ve all forgotten–or at least I know I have–that Harris was not the only Asian American running for the Democratic nomination n the 2020 election. Remember Andrew Yang? Yeah, a lot of people seemed to forget that he was the first Asian American man to run for president as a Democrat. I haven’t forgotten, for sure. I still remember the horrible M.A.T.H ( Make America Think Harder ) hats he would wear, way to get rid of the Model Minority Stereotype, man.
Yang certainly does look more like the part, with a Chinese last name and East Asian features to match. It’s hard not to see him for what he is, a Chinese American. Harris’s background as a mixed-race woman, primarily her Black side, keeps people from seeing her as part Asian too.
Is she really Asian? Most people wouldn’t even consider Indian as the same as being let’s say Chinese or Korean.
There’s a certain checklist when it comes to being Asian in the eyes of some Americans, and many of those in South Asia, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islands category don’t check off that list, of being pale and having straight black hair.
That’s dumb for various reasons but the main thing is that Harris is as Indian as she is Black, even if it’s not as promoted or publicized by others in the media.
Harris even said in a New York Times article that most of her political values come from her Indian grandparents, such as her grandfather’s progressive views, particularly the education of women.
But the issue of biracial individuals never fully being recognized as both has been around far longer than Kamala Harris, and it’ll probably continue a long time after.
Listen, I’m half Thai and half Vietnamese, both are counted as Asian but I’ve heard my own grandfather say to me, “Oh well, Thai people will know you’re not full.”
I don’t necessarily think my grandfather thinks less of me, but it does kind of suck to hear that. Especially when I hold such pride for both sides of my family.
It’s true if I went back to Thailand they’d know that I wasn’t a pureblood Thai. It still hurt though.
My younger half-sister is Vietnamese and Mexcian, and I feel like at age 10 she’s already aware that she’ll never fully fit in with each side.
It doesn’t really matter how much the individual is well versed in each of their cultures, they’ll always be seen as “other”.
It doesn’t matter Harris’ mother took she and her sister to Hindu temples or to visit their Indian grandparents every summer.
Some will always feel like she’s not really Indian or she’s not really Black.
Which is disheartening you know? The United States prides itself on being a melting pot, so we all should realize that mixed individuals are equally one race as well as the other. Just because they don’t look like the stereotype doesn’t make them less Asian, Black, Latinx, or White.