The first Indian American Vice President Kamala Devi Harris, the first woman Vice President, the First African American Vice President and the First Jamaican descent Vice President. She has also broken ranks from the traditional democratic nominees in that she was also the Attorney General from California. That brings enormous experience to the position of Vice President of the United States. She was born in Oakland Medical Center, Oakland, CA on October 20, 1956 to Donald Harris, a Jamaican and Shyamala Devi Gopalan, an Indian. Both Jamaican and Indian origins make her experience unique in terms of understanding the mindset of immigrants. When immigrants migrate to the USA, their life is filled with uncertainties that the new country may offer. The aspirations of an immigrant revolve more around acceptability of their new identity and fears of the unknown. What the father & mother of Kamala Harris went through is any immigrants’ experience? That experience qualifies her to become a champion of immigrants.
The powerful USA that we know of today, has seen the contributions of European immigrants, Indian American immigrants, Middle Eastern immigrants, African Immigrants, Chinese Immigrants, Mexican Immigrants and many other nationalities from other parts of the world. Everybody’s contribution has been important. Just to say that one community has contributed more than any other would be gross injustice to the very idea of the United States.
Shyamala Devi Gopalan, was the principal inspiration behind the success of Kamala. She belonged to a very highly educated family from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. She belonged to a highly respected Brahmin family known for liberal values in life. A student of Karnataka music, she was brought up in the richness of Hindu culture. Her mother inspired her to take a career in science. In 1958, she was accepted for a master’s program in nutrition and endocrinology at University of Berkeley. She earned her PhD in 1964. She was a breast cancer researcher especially on the study of role of hormones in the growth of Breast cancer. She was also nominated on the Presidential Commission breast cancer. Her father Donald Harris, retired as a professor emeritus from Stanford University. In 1973, they divorced. During the seventies, she took both her daughters Kamala and Maya to India to connect them to her family culture and traditions. As a single parent, she gave the strength of purpose & focus to her daughters. She regularly took her daughters to a Hindu temple where she induced her daughters to sing Hindu Bhajans (praises of God). Kamala Harris, however, is baptized and is a faithful follower of her church.
Given this background, the expectations of Indian American community and also all Indians (particularly Hindus) in general from Kamala Harris has skyrocketed.
P V Gopalan, her maternal Grandfather played an important role in building her progressive thoughts on Democracy & women’s rights. During her formative years in Palo Alto & Berkeley she faced racial discrimination which has understandably strengthen her resolve to fight systemic racism throughout her career. After completing her under graduation from Howard University she completed her law from Hastings Law College of University of California. She also served as a President of Black Law Students association at UC Hastings. In 1990, she started her career as a Deputy District Attorney in Alameda county, California. In 1994, Willie Brown, the then Speaker of California Assembly, appointed her to the State Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and then to California Medical Assistance Commission.
Her choice of cases that she picked up will tell the reader about her strong sense of character, grit and determination which the Americans will particularly appreciate in today’s politics.
Her upbringing by her mother played a major role in her kind personality especially towards children. She chose to fight for Juvenile justice to be delivered in juvenile courts when she opposed Prop 21. She chose to defend children in child abuse and child neglect cases. As DA of San Francisco, she fought to protect people from Gun Violence especially in poor neighborhoods of San Francisco such as Bayview and Tenderloin. She fought for protecting the integrity of the local election process when she prosecuted Ed Jew for violating the residency requirements on the nomination forms. Her second tenure as the DA of San Francisco saw record convictions on Marijuana offenses as per the law of that period. She defended banning gun shows in San Francisco to stem gun related violence in 2007. She took a strong stance to not press for death penalty, even going against the Senator Dianne Feinstein. Her emphasis on life sentence over death penalty without parole was based on her cost assessment. Her flagship program ‘San Francisco Reentry program’ became a sort of template for prosecutor offices in many other cities. That program is also much less harsh than other prevailing laws before that program.
To protect the future of children, she ran a very strong citywide effort to combat truancy.
She took a strong position against large corporations to prevent fraud. She recovered billions of dollars from large corporations such as Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, S&P, Corinthian Colleges and others for State Exchequer. She also signed an agreement with major social media apps to prominently show privacy policies and disclose their data sharing. The list of her achievements are endless and couldn’t be even summarized in this article. One fact that I want to highlight about her personality in just one word: Fighter. She just doesn’t give up fighting for the rights of American citizens. She has been a champion in combating Human Trafficking across international borders between US and Mexico. When her candidacy for US Vice President was announced, I was personally sure that given her track record, she will definitely bring a very strong and proactive Vice Presidency.
Given her strong experience & track record, the expectations from her are also naturally higher especially from people of color in the US.
Financial empowerment & access
Educational Assistance Reforms
Social Justice reforms
Native American Justice & Access to Financial resources
Protection of Hindus from Hindu Phobic lobbies from within Democratic factions