• Monday, May 23, 2022

Column

Value of Kamala’s past

Kamala Harris (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images).

By: Radhakrishna N S

By Amit Roy

THE choice of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s run­ning mate has added a new excitement to No­vember’s presidential election in America.

Back in 2008, I made a point of going to the US when it was even more exciting with Barack Oba­ma running as the Demo­cratic candidate.

On the night he won, I joined a large crowd in Rockefeller Plaza in New York where I overheard one Indian tell another that a Hindu deity has come down to earth in human form: “What you are seeing is Krishna.”

Twelve years on, in the year of Black Lives Matter, the choice of Harris seems a wise one – though it doesn’t guarantee a Don­ald Trump defeat.

Her father, Donald J Harris, a Stanford Univer­sity professor emeritus of economics, is of Jamaican origin. Perhaps this will go some way in helping her defeat the incumbent in the White House.

Her father met his In­dian wife-to-be, Shyama­la Gopalan, who had come from Madras (now Chennai) and later be­came a breast cancer sci­entist, at a civil rights demonstration. Harris’s parents divorced when she was seven and she and her younger sister, Maya, were brought up – apparently as “black girls” – by their mother.

Biden and Harris have made a pitch for the sup­port of the four-million-strong Indian population in the US in their messag­es on India’s Independ­ence Day.

“I stand before you as the first candidate for vice-president of the United States of south Asian descent,” she said.

“When my mother Shymala stepped off the plane in California at 19 years old, she didn’t have much in the way of be­longings, but she carried with her lessons from back home, including ones she had learned from her parents, my grandmother Rajan and her father, my grandfa­ther, PV Gopalan.

“They taught her that when you see injustice in the world, you have an obligation to do some­thing about it, which is what inspired my mother to march and shout on the streets of Oakland at the height of the civil rights movement, a movement whose lead­ers, including Dr Martin Luther King Jr, were themselves inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. And it was during those pro­tests that my mother met my father. And the rest, as they say, is history.”

She injected a personal note: “Growing up, my mother would take my sister Maya and me back to what was then called Madras, because she wanted us to understand where she had come from. And of course, she always wanted to instil in us a love of good idli. In Madras, I would go on long walks with my grandfather… … He would tell me about the heroes who are responsible for the birth of the world’s biggest democracy, and he would explain that it’s on us to pick up where they left off. Those les­sons are a big reason why I am who I am today.

“Our community is bound together by so much more than our shared history and cul­ture. The reason there is a kinship between every­one who is a product of the south Asian diaspora, no matter how diverse our backgrounds may be, is because we also share a set of values, values forged by overcoming co­lonial past… values like tolerance, pluralism, and diversity. And reflecting on the past 73 years, it’s remarkable how much progress people have made in the fight for jus­tice, and we should be proud, but we wouldn’t be if we didn’t commit ourselves to building an even better future.”

So far, Narendra Modi’s government has main­tained protocol by not commenting on Biden’s choice as vice-president. Modi himself would probably like to see the re-election of Trump.

Eastern Eye

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