Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 US elections is Kamala Harris. Harris is half Indian, her mother having grown up in Tamil Nadu. However, in India, opinions vary: from ecstatic fans who are excited of her chances to become vice president of the US to people who believe she is anti-India.
In India opinions of Harris are mostly positive. Lots of people recognize her accomplishments. Indian newspapers and social media have shown support to Harris. In an NBC news interview Mugdha Pande, an Indian lawyer, said about Harris: “I was extremely happy … to see a woman of color rise up the political ladder of arguably the world’s most powerful country through sheer merit and determination.” Neil Makhija, an American-Indian politician, has congratulated Harris and called her a trailblazer as the US could see their first woman, Asian and person of color vice president on November 3rd this year. Shashi Taroor, an Indian politician, showed his support of Harris in a tweet: “Indian Americans and expatriate desis everywhere are buzzing in celebration of Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris as his VP candidate.” Indian positive hashtags are trending now on Twitter: #DesiProud, #WeHaveHerBack and more bizarrely, a good-humored joke with #YoKamalaSoIndian.
Countering the encouragement and pride that Harris has inspired, she is also disliked by some Indians. When Radhika Sed, an Indian living in Atlanta, was interviewed by the Times of India, she said: “Harris is a supporter of the anti-India, anti-Hindu brigade who calls herself Black, hates her Indian side of the family, and never recognizes herself as Indian.” Utsav Chakrabarti, executive director of HinduPact and American Hindu organizations, also stated: “… as for the future prospect of the Biden campaign, I am concerned about the public bias they have shown against the American Hindu minority with their policy pronouncements.” However, these negative opinions are not supported by what Harris herself has recalled about her childhood: “I grew up with a great deal of pride and understanding about my Indian heritage and culture.”
The opinions of AES students on Harris and her VP nomination is overwhelmingly positive. Harris represents very well the diversity of the US, Adi, an 8th grader, points out: “She [Harris] represents intersectionality, I find it cool that she can represent so many people.” Aarkin, a 7th grade Indian-American, sees Harris as a positive surprise and as a woman and given her mixed background as a VP choice that can galvanize the support of many: “I think she will do great because she is a woman and will get a lot of support from other women.” Fatima, an 8th grader who has been following Harris even before her VP nomination, believes that “she gives a lot of people hope of who she is. She was the first [South Asian American] state senator of California and the second African American, and [the] first South Asian senator in history [of the US]. And that really gives people hope, and shows that she has spirit.” Many in the AES community believe that will continue breaking glass ceilings.
Overall, Harris’s Indian support is a mixed bag, with clashing ideas and beliefs. I believe that Harris can bring a sense of pride to Indians (both in the US and in India), but I understand some of the worries if she does not specifically express her support of the American-Indian community.