Kamala Harris on the verge of many, many firsts

Kamala Harris stands to write several chapters of history when she is formally declared US Vice-President-elect, a prospect that looks inevitable as the race for White House nears closure.

Born of a mother from India and a father from Jamaica, Harris will become the first woman, first Indian American, first Black, first South Asian American and the first Asian ever elected as vice-president if Joe Biden wins the US presidential elections.

Harris, who had accepted Biden’s announcement of her selection with a shout-out to her “Chithis” (Tamil for aunts) connected with several constituencies at the same time: African Americans, Asian Americans, South Asian Americans and, of course, the 4.5 million Indian Americans, 1.9 mn of whom are eligible to vote.

Perhaps alarmed by her wide appeal, President Donald Trump, who had one said she would be a “fine choice” as a running mate for Biden began to target her right away. He called her “nasty” and a “monster”. He frequently mispronounced her first name as a tactic usually employed to make Americans of different ethnicities feel unwelcome — he had done the same with President Barak Obama by insisting on adding his middle name whenever he referred to him — and led his supporters to boo at her at his rallies.

Trump ally and Republican Senator David Perdue took the President’s lead and mocked her name at a rally in Georgia. The Biden campaign turned that into a mobilisation opportunity with people jumping in to explain the meaning of their names, and offering suggestions on how to pronounce them right.

The Indian American community was electrified by her selection. “Harris has mobilised Indian Americans, especially Democrats,” said a survey report by Carnegie. “Harris’ vice-presidential candidacy has galvanised a large section of the Indian American community to turn out to vote. On balance, while the Harris pick might not change a large numbers of votes (given the community’s historic Democratic tilt), her candidacy is linked to greater enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket.”

Harris spoke of mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who came to the United States from Chennai and was a breast cancer researcher, frequently while campaigning. “How I wish she were here tonight but I know she’s looking down on me from above,” Harris said the Democratic party convention while accepting her nomination as the vice-presidential nominee.

“I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman—all of five feet tall—who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California… On that day, she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States of America,” Harris said.

Harris started her career in public office as a public attorney in Oakland, California.

She was elected to the US senate in 2016 from the state of California and is now on track to be vice-president.

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