Kamala Harris: The woman who strolled on Chennai beach is US vice-president nominee

Updated: 13 August, 2020 09:20 IST | Sherlin Rajan
  • Kamala Harris

    Senator and Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden's vice president nominee Kamala Devi Harris has blended her dominant African American identity with that of her Indian background as a Tamilian in a clever manner to create the evergreen American classic of the immigrant dream.

  • Kamala Harris

    Born in the US to immigrants, cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan from India and economics professor Donald Harris from Jamaica, Kamala Harris has leaped in a generation to run for a position that could put her a heartbeat away from the presidency.

  • Kamala Harris

    Her multiracial background - which includes a layer of a White Jewish husband, Douglas Emhoff, and two step children - gives her a degree of identity fluidity to navigate American society torn apart by race and ethnicity.

  • Kamala Harris

    After her parents divorced when she was only seven, Harris was brought up by her mother, whom she has described as "tough and fierce and protective" yet "generous and loyal and funny," and credits her for her success.

  • Kamala Harris

    She once wrote in her memoir, "The Truths We Hold," that she was raised in "a place where people believed in the most basic tenet of the American Dream: that if you worked hard and do right by the world, your kids will be better of than you were."

    In picture: Kamala Harris with New Jersey senator Cory Booker.

  • Kamala Harris

    Despite her mixed parentage, Harris is presented as an African American, meeting the current party sentiment driven by the movement against discrimination against African Americans and police brutality.

  • Kamala Harris

    Harris embraces the African American identity as her primary one, writing in her memoir that her mother "knew that her adopted homeland would see (sister) Maya and me as Black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women." Her sister Maya is a lawyer.

    In picture: Harris with American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder.

  • Kamala Harris

    While the African American identity became the dominant one - and, in fact, the one that boosted her chances to the get the vice-presidential nomination - Harris wrote in her memoir, "Our classical Indian names harked back to our heritage and we were raised with a strong awareness of and appreciation for Indian culture." She wrote, "My mother, grandparents, aunts and uncle instilled us with pride in our Souh Asian roots."

  • Kamala Harris

    As California attorney general and before that the top prosecutor for San Francisco, Harris had a reputation of being tough on crime, while also introducing some reforms.

    In picture: Harris with Democratic party's presidential candidate Joe Biden.

  • Kamala Harris

    Former President Barack Obama said that his vice president Biden "nailed it" by picking Harris. She is the "ideal partner to help him tackle the very real challenges America faces right now and in the years ahead," he said.

    In Picture: Harris with former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama.

  • Kamala Harris

    Explaining his pick, Biden refers to her association with his late son Beau, who was the attorney general of Delaware state. He tweeted, "Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau. I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I'm proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign."

    In picture: Harris with Joe Biden's late son Beau Biden.

  • Kamala Harris

    She was elected to the position of a senator in 2016 where she has gained foreign policy expertise working on the senate's Select Committee on Intelligence and the Homeland Security Committee.

    In picture: Harris with labour rights leader Dolores Huerta.

  • Kamala Harris

    In 2019, she had filed a nomination to run for president against Joe Biden and 20 others in the initial phase of the Democratic presidential race. In a debate of Democratic candidates she lanced into Biden bringing up his record on racism because of his old history of supporting racial school segregation. That performance initially led to her surge in the polls and a slump for Biden.

  • Kamala Harris

    But her jump in the polls was short-lived and she dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in December 2019 and a few months later, she endorsed Biden's presidential bid.

  • Kamala Harris

    With her prosecutorial background, Harris is seen to be a formidable debater, which would fill out a weak point for Biden, and be able to take on US President Donald Trump and overwhelm his mild-mannered Vice President Mike Pence.

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About The Gallery

Kamala Harris, whose mother tongue is Tamil, is the first Indian-American to be vice-presidential choice in US Presidential election. Her mother Shyamala Gopalan had gone to the US to study medicine and became a cancer researcher. She later married Donald Harris, a Jamaican economist. The couple had two daughters - Kamala and Maya. Though born and raised in the US, a young Kamala often visited her maternal grandparents in Chennai's Besant Nagar locality, and had strolled on the Elliots Beach here along with her grandfather P.V. Gopalan, a retired civil servant. (Pictures/ Kamala Harris-Instagram)

First Published: 13 August, 2020 08:00 IST