Dear Kamala Harris
The selection of Kamala Harris to be his Vice-President (VP) by Presidential candidate Biden is historic for multiple reasons: She is a Black woman and a daughter of immigrant parents.
While women have been chosen as VP candidates before out of desperation, this is the first time a woman VP has a realistic chance of assuming office. After nearly a hundred years since women won the right to vote, their glass ceiling in American Presidential politics that has had only cracks so far, might be broken.
In Harris, America, the land of immigrants, might see a rare first-generation, American-born citizen become a VP. Her mother from India and her father from Jamaica when they arrived in America to study, belonged to the group of “undesirable immigrants” till the passing of the 1965 Immigration Act. A daughter of mixed heritage, Kamala Harris was raised by her Indian mother and grew up with all the attendant privileges of a Black child in America in the sixties.
What would it mean if history is made and Kamala Harris is sworn in as VP? That being a woman is not disqualifying. That undesirable immigrants could some day become desirable. That being a Black woman and showing leadership are not mutually exclusive. But mostly that she is an anomaly who was able to ascend in spite of the odds arrayed against her, just like Barack Obama before her. Perhaps not coincidentally, both had highly educated parents and were raised by a mother with a doctorate.
There was much hope and expectation when Obama was elected and re-elected President. Americans started believing that our racist history is in the past and that the ills of the society would be cured. While the success of Harris and Obama shows what can happen when collective prejudices are overcome, what happened to George Floyd and what is happening during the pandemic show how much more progress is needed to make Black lives better.
The system that is working well for the privileged and powerful and that has kept Blacks, women, indigenous peoples, undesirable immigrants, and the poor down will not relent easily. It will allow a few exceptions to relieve immediate pressure, while ensuring that old rules and structures remain firmly in place. Even if the society is ready for change, the system will do everything to thwart it. No single President or Vice-President by themselves can change that system of explicit laws and unwritten laws of coded language. But they can help us crack those laws and language, and lend their vision and voice to people movements such as Black Lives Matter: Movements that can ultimately bring about lasting changes, like the Civil Rights protests in the sixties that brought together the parents of Kamala Harris and paved the path for her to be here today.
A bit about me.
I came to America to get a Ph. D. and met my wife in college.