Shahmeer Kazi describes A look at Kamala Harris
A look at Kamala Harris has become a symbol of resilience and consistent efforts to attain goals that were once considered out of reach for a coloured politician in the United States of America. She broke any barrier impeding her growth as a human being and political personage along the way and proved that single-minded devotion is the only panacea for overcoming all difficulties. Her rise to the second highest executive position in an extremely competitive country also pointed to an important transition that the American polity has been through by electing a coloured female politician to a crucial office in the land. By successfully running with Joe Biden against Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential elections she created history and is considered worth emulating.
Kamala Devi Harris is a second generation American born on 20 October, 1964 in Oakland that is considered the quintessential multiracial city and headquarters of the Black Panthers in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The background she hailed from was a place full of racial tensions and as a coloured person she had to overcome all biases associated with this tendency. Kamala Harris grew up in Berkeley, another city with a progressive tradition in the state of California and when her parents divorced, she lived in Quebec for a while as a child. Kamala Harris is of mixed descendance as her mother was a Tamil Indian woman and her father came to the US from Jamaica. The Indian village where her grandfather was born, Thulasendrapuram, rooted for the campaign of Kamala calling her their daughter and granted her the title of a ‘Singapenn,’ a “fearless or lion-hearted woman.”
The daughter of immigrants, Kamala Harris grew up in a middle-class environment with few financial difficulties. Kamala Harris grew up in an ethnically homogeneous neighbourhood. As a student, she was bused to a school in another neighbourhood as part of a government mandate to encourage racial diversity. This programme of busing has always been heavily criticised by the right wing. Kamala Harris speaks favourably of it, though. She says it was a way of opening up her mind. She went to Howard University, a historically black college in
Washington, DC where she studied law in California and passed the bar exam in 1990.
Shortly after passing the bar, Kamala Harris became the Assistant Prosecutor in Alameda County. In 2003, she was elected San Francisco County Prosecutor. In this job Kamala Harris distinguished herself by her promotion of reintegration programs and leniency towards criminals and created a favourable impression on everyone who came in contact with her. Despite her neutral views Kamala Harris was the centre of a major controversy when she refused to seek the death penalty for a man who had murdered a policeman. At the officer’s funeral, Senator and former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein publicly asked her to rethink this position but she was adamant that the killer be sentenced to life in prison instead of the death penalty.
In November 2016, Kamala Harris was elected Senator on behalf of the state of California. As a legislator, she was known for her criticism of President Trump, who started his term at the same time as she did. She came out to be also a fierce – and to some, notorious – interrogator; a skill she developed in her prosecuting years but her methods always remained above board and this aspect was gradually appreciated. During senate hearings about Russia’s involvement with the Trump campaign, or at Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, she left several powerful men stumbling for words. This ability and sterling performance earned her kudos by all who mattered in this field of activity. She came across as a moderate Democrat with liberal convictions regarding the death penalty, termination of pregnancy, and gay rights. However, in general she is rated as quite moderate. That is to say, even though she was a highly visible female of colour in the Democratic Party and the Capitol, her political position had little to do with, the representative of a new socialism within the party.
Joe Biden, a middle-of-the-road Democrat himself, chose a running mate who was historically unprecedented (a woman of colour) but who was also a centrist in her politics. Picking a moderate companion, Biden opted to keep the establishment satisfied. For two terms, Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president. The duo often made calls for consensus in the country. For Kamala Harris, Obama was and is a role model. He differs radically from Donald Trump, the president who has increased the sense of polarization in the US in the past years. Critics of Kamala Harris said that there were some shadows in her record as a prosecutor. They accused her of not having fought hard enough to overturn the many race-biased convictions that occurred while she was San Francisco County Prosecutor. In addition, critics on the left say also mentioned that she was tainted by her past as a prosecutor in the 1990s, an era in which the “lock-’em-up mind-set” dominated the state.
Over the course of Kamala Harris’s career as prosecutor, California came to incarcerate five times as many African-Americans as their share of California’s population. As published in various media, Kamala Harris prefers to avoid ideological labels. In her own primary campaign for president, she said, “I’m not trying to radically change society; I’m just trying to solve the problems that people think about when they go to bed.” While campaigning and fulfilling her usual tasks as Senator for the state of California, she also took the time to visit the areas struck by wildfires in the late summer of 2020. Her support for the feminist movement is unquestionable, though and additionally she brought relative youth to the candidacy of Biden, who was in already in his late seventies. Many believe that Kamala Harris could become the first pick for the 2024 presidential elections, because Joe Biden will by then be in his eighties. For this reason, people have watched Kamala Harris closely as she is considered presidential material. Kamala Harris prefers wearing white suit at important events as she believes that they the colour white stands for the right of women to vote and to hold political office. It has been 100 years since the United States anchored women’s voting rights in its constitution with the 19th amendment.
On the personal front Kamala Harris’s private life appears quite secluded. She married Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer of Jewish descent, in 2014 and is a mother of a step-daughter. Her marital life appears to be sedate and the couple live in harmony with her husband often seen accompanying her in many public functions. Another person of importance in her life is her sister Maya who is known as a political analyst for MSNBC. Kamala Harris is a model of achievement and her steadfast pursuance of a public career has paid of extremely well. She has kept an adequate profile during her tenure as vice president and has stayed clear of any controversy. She is considered to be an extremely discreet individual who prefers to remain on the sidelines of the executive authority. TW