President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Republican Sen. David Perdue are among the top Republicans who have mispronounced now Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ name. Senator Perdue in a rally while referring to Harris said, “KAH’-mah-lah? Kah-MAH’-lah? Kamala-mala-mala? I don’t know. Whatever.” The audience laughed.
But Kamala Devi Harris made history on Saturday becoming the first person of South Asian descent and the first woman of colour to become the vice president-elect of the United States.
Shyamala Gopalan, Kamala’s mother, was born in Chennai (Madras) and arrived in Berkeley in 1959, aged 19, after graduating from all-women’s Lady Irwin College in Delhi. Donald Harris, Kamala’s father, came to Berkeley to study Economics from the newly independent Jamaica in 1963. They met each other in protest marches against racial injustice and inequality, fell in love and married in 1963. On her website, Senator Harris has affirmed her dual roots: South Asian and African-American. In her virtual acceptance speech on August 19 as Democrat party’s vice-presidential nominee, Harris acknowledged the African-American women who fought for equality: “Mary Church Terrell, Mary McCleod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer and Dane Nash, Constance Baker Motley and Shirly Chisholm.” She added: “There’s another woman, whose name isn’t known, whose story isn’t shared… my mother — Shyamala Gopalan Harris.”
Shyamala built a career as a renowned breast-cancer researcher, while Donald became a Stanford University Economics professor. Kamala was born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California and was brought up in a predominantly African-American neighbourhood of Berkeley. Harris attended the Westmount High School in Quebec and attended the Howard University in Washington, DC and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, earning her JD in 1989. After earning admittance to the State Bar of California in 1990, Harris began her career as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County. She became a managing attorney of the Career Criminal Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office in 1998 and in 2000 she was appointed chief of its Community and Neighborhood Division, during which time she established the state’s first Bureau of Children’s Justice. Harris started as a state attorney general in 2010.
Harris continued her political ascent by narrowly beating Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley for California attorney general in November 2010, making her both the first African American and the first woman to hold the position. Following the November 2016 elections, Harris became the second African American woman and the first South Asian American to win a seat in the US Senate. She even ran for the 2020 US presidential election but dropped out of the race before the end of the year. In August 2020, Joe Biden announced Harris as vice presidential running mate.
During his North Carolina political rally, President Donald Trump targeted Kamala Harris, saying, “She could never be the first woman vice president. . . That would be an insult to our country.”
Now, Kamala Harris is the Vice President-elect of the United States of America.